Some economists argue that environmental degradation occurs because
of incomplete ownership of rights to use valuable resources. Many
environmental resources have traditionally been commonly owned by
everyone (or, alternatively, owned by no-one) and open to use by
anyone. These economists say there is a strong tendency for people
to overexploit and degrade common property resources because of
the 'tragedy of the commons' principle.
The idea of rights-based measures is that if people have a right
to the use or pollution of natural resources, they will consider
the longer term and manage those resources sustainably. The idea
is also to create markets so that 'the power of the market can be
harnessed' to environmental goals, and individuals or firms can
then use their superior knowledge of their own activities to choose
the best way of meeting environmental standards.