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However, the programmes and instruments were implemented in very different national settings. Despite the narrow similarities of programme design, there were in practice substantial discrepancies in the degree of importance attributed to different instruments, in basic pollution control principles, and in the role and significance of local authorities in the different political systems. Economic instruments were far from being single policy instruments as had been suggested in the formal analysis. On the contrary, as Table 1 shows, economic instruments were only one element of complex programmes. Such differences can better understood by considering constitutional and historical paths of development with respect to public administration in the four countries.

Before summarising the individual case studies, it is necessary to clarify the particular economic instruments used in these programmes.5 A distinction must be made between normal user fees, on the one hand, and effluent charges (or levies) on the other. User fees are charged only for waste discharged to a collective sewerage facility, and cover the costs of a service. In contrast, an effluent charge is a financial obligation that must be born by any entity discharging waste, treated or untreated, into surface water, and in general the size of the bill varies with the amount of waste discharged.

Effluent charges were introduced in France, Germany and the Netherlands, implying a financial obligation for all dischargers, although the Netherlands had a more comprehensive and self-contained system of effluent charges than did the other two. France and Germany also had user fees to supplement fluent charges, although the Netherlands did not. In contrast, Denmark had user fees but no effluent charges, implying that manufacturing industries and other entities could discharge directly to surface waters free of charge. Furthermore, there were subsidies in Denmark which meant that user fees did not reflect full costs of sewage treatment.

A few words on important background variables are necessary before introducing the experiences of individual countries. Not only did the four countries considered here launch their modern programmes for water pollution control at almost at the same time, around 1970, but they are similar in other respects. Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands are, apart from Luxembourg, the four richest member states in the European Union and experienced almost parallel development in their GDP per capita from 1970-1989 (see Figure 1). The economic preconditions for pursuing an environmental policy have thus been reasonably comparable.

(Figures 1 and 2 here)


There are several reports and articles describing these systems, e.g. Schneider, Günter and Rolf- Ülrich Sprenger, eds., 1984, Mehr Umwelschutz für weniger Geld, München: IFO-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung. Johnson, Ralph W. and Gardner M. Brown, 1984, “Pollution Control by Effluent Charges: It works in the Federal Republic of Germany, Why not in the United States?”, Natural Resources Journal, 24:4, pp.929-66. Bochniarz, Zbigniew, 1990, “Economic Incentives to Protect Water Quality in Market and Planned Economies”, Natural Resources Forum, 14:4, pp 302-11. Bongaerts, Jan and Andreas Kraemer, 1989 “Permits and Effluent Charges in the Water Pollution Control Policies of France, West Germany and the Netherlands”, Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 12, pp, 127-47. Bower, Blair T. et al, 1981, Incentives in Water Quality Management, Washington, D.C.: John Hopkins University Press.


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