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Reimagining Environmental Law 18 August 2020

Market-Based Instruments and Green Economy


Making polluters stop their pollution

Environmental law presently reflects the data-constrained mid-20th century world and thus relies heavily on pollution control mandates rather than economic incentives. Building on 21st Century information technologies, we can today end externalities by carefully tracking emissions and making polluters stop their pollution — or pay fully for the harm they cause.  

Professor Daniel C Esty, Yale Law School, Director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, and co-director of the Yale Initiative on Sustainable Finance

Technology aspects of funding for the environment

The effectiveness of environmental law depends on the flow of resources (notably money) and the flow of information. Technology can affect either, though most of the focus is on resources. Technology might be used to facilitate funding of timely and precise: metering and monitoring for the purpose of environmental taxation or payment for ecological services; imposition of fines; measurement of high-value components of nature (enabling higher prices for fractional use). As increased and diverse funding sources are needed for the environment, technology-mediated revenues become increasingly important and provide opportunities for strategic funding innovation.

Professor Paul Martin, Director, Australian Centre for Agriculture and Law, University of New England

We need to establish new data science

To unravel the greatest threats to the planet, we need to rapidly establish new data science approaches, terminology, and trust in the outputs. The law has an important role to play, in pushing commercial operators towards standardising spatial disclosure, refining the legal suitability of outputs, and, create precedents, in doing so help move the cultural outlook of 'spatial finance'. 
David J Patterson, Head of Conservation Intelligence, WWF

Let's avoid "greenwash"

Increasingly investors and asset managers are seeking a double bottom line with their investment capital, a financial return and a positive environmental impact. To avoid "greenwash", it will become increasingly important to tightly define, in a legal sense, what a positive environmental impact investment means and to be able to hold firms accountable. 

Shaun Kingsbury, CBE,CEO, Conduit Investment Advisors

Watch your system boundaries

AI might be good for the environment, but a wider look uncovers two other issues: 1. that AI uses energy (both the hardware and machine learning algorithms), and 2. there are carbon-intensive sectors heavily investing in AI (the oil and gas sector is investing around $1 billion annually in AI to increase productivity of existing fields). How will all this balance out and over what time frame? 

Dave Rejeski, Environmental Law Institute, Former Director, Science and Technology Innovation Program, Woodrow Wilson Center

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