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Environmental valuation and benefit-cost analysis in U.K. policy


  • Atkinson, Giles
  • Groom, Ben
  • Hanley, Nicholas
  • Mourato, Susana


This paper presents an evaluation of the use of environmental valuation – techniques to assign monetary values to environmental impacts of policies and projects, especially nonmarket impacts – in U.K. policy. In doing so, we seek to contribute to the debate, more generally, of the use and influence of benefit-cost analysis (BCA) in national policy processes such as Impact Assessment. Specifically, our contribution in this paper is two-fold. First, we identify a number of trends that have characterized U.K. policy use of environmental valuation over the past two or so decades. While this has notably involved development of “sharable values” allowing more widespread uptake, it also seems that different branches of government have developed different traditions of use adding nuance to what, on the face of it, is otherwise a shared endeavor. Second, we evaluate the extent to which the use of environmental valuation can be said to have influenced policy decisions and the degree to which this is embedded by evolving policy processes. As such, we discuss two areas of environmental policy – water quality improvements and natural capital – which have entailed either substantial use of environmental valuation either in determining specific policy and investment project options or where this has helped shape the broader policy agenda. Our evaluation is not exhaustive; nor do our findings suggest that environmental valuation and BCA are necessarily the dominant driver of decisions, as we discuss. However, in recognizing this, we argue it is also important to consider a number of established or evolving cultural and legal institutional processes which broadly appear to support our assessment of such cases.

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  • Atkinson, Giles & Groom, Ben & Hanley, Nicholas & Mourato, Susana, 2018. "Environmental valuation and benefit-cost analysis in U.K. policy," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 87615, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:87615

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Georgiou, Stavros & Rheinberger, Christoph M. & Vainio, Matti, 2018. "Benefit-Cost Analysis in EU Chemicals Legislation: Experiences from over 100 REACH Applications for Authorisation," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(1), pages 181-204, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Carolus, Johannes Friedrich & Hanley, Nick & Olsen, Søren Bøye & Pedersen, Søren Marcus, 2018. "A Bottom-up Approach to Environmental Cost-Benefit Analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 152(C), pages 282-295.
    2. Roman Inderst & Eftichios Sartzetakis & Anastasios Xepapadeas, 2021. "Technical Report on Sustainability and Competition," DEOS Working Papers 2103, Athens University of Economics and Business.
    3. Daniel R. Petrolia & Dennis Guignet & John C. Whitehead & Cannon Kent & Clay Caulder & Kelvin Amon, 2020. "Nonmarket Valuation in the Environmental Protection Agency's Regulatory Process," Working Papers 20-11, Department of Economics, Appalachian State University.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H43 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Project Evaluation; Social Discount Rate
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects

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