What is an Environmental Policy?

B. Miller

An environmental policy is a set of rules or guidelines created by individuals, corporations, or the government in order to meet certain standards or goals related to the environment. Though "environmental law and policy" are often considered together, they are not synonymous; laws are enforceable by legal standards, such as in the courts, whereas policies are often the building blocks to creating laws. Many businesses will work to create an environmental policy, sometimes with local environmental groups or local governments, and occasionally just on their own in order to be environmentally responsible.

Environmental policy is designed to reduce pollution air and water pollution.
Environmental policy is designed to reduce pollution air and water pollution.

Environmental policy is often related to subjects such as reducing pollution, protecting endangered wildlife or plant community areas, correctly managing ecosystems to promote biodiversity, natural resource management, land-use planning, and management of waste, among others. Policies might be created addressing all or just some of these issues depending on the relevance to the matters at hand. For instance, any type of business that produces pollution might set an environmental policy stating what they will do to manage or reduce pollution, how they will protect surrounding ecosystems and human neighborhoods, and their goals for the future; for example, a certain percentage reduction in pollution in the next five to ten years.

In many cases, these environmental policies will be negotiated between the business and the local government. Local governments will also often create public policies designed to govern behavior in a municipality, such as the creation of roads, the way trash and recycling will be managed, or even urban planning issues such as zoning. Keep in mind that environmental policy can take many different forms, but it is often through public policy and the success or failure of those actions that leads to more laws being created, which can be even more beneficial to the environment because they are now legally enforceable.

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Any environmental policy that is put into place must follow laws that are already in existence; policy cannot thwart or override existing laws, though it can be used to promote changes to existing laws to make them more strict. The development of sound environmental policies is typically a collaborative effort because this tends to lead to the most effective results. Ineffective policies or policies that are not meeting their stated goals can then be modified as needed until desired results are achieved, or until an actual law is put in place governing the public or corporation's actions more strictly.

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