There are several reasons for this gap between intent and action. Compliance with environmental requirements is seldom, if ever, complete. Defining an appropriate level of compliance can be challenging, and detecting and taking action against non-compliance is complex and resource-intensive.
And the institutions that monitor compliance with environmental regulations must be independent and equipped to resist undue political pressure or corruption. Ensuring Environmental Compliance: Trends and Good Practices compares the systems that assure environmental compliance in eight countries representing different legal, institutional, and cultural perspectives: China, Finland, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, the UK, and the US. While the study compliance are shaped by national traditions and cultures, the countries examined share many of the same problems. Some trends are noticeable. Governments are promoting compliance more aggressively, targeting small and medium-sized businesses.
There are also widespread moves to make enforcement more proportionate to the extent of non-compliance. For example, some countries are making more use of administrative, rather than criminal, measures for less severe violations. In more consensus based cultures, such as in Finland and Japan, where a warningis often enough to restore compliance, sanctions in general, and criminal ones in particular, are extremely rare.
The study recommends looking more closely at whether the choice and design of environmental policies affect the level of compliance. That analysis could help improve initial policy design. The report also suggests determining the minimum human and financial resources necessary to comply fully with environmental regulations. That could help government and industry do more with less.
©OECD Observer No 273, June 2009