Book Notes

Frank Stilwell

Journal of Australian Political Economy, December 2007, p. 139

Sharon Beder, Environmental Principles and Policies, UNSW Press, Sydney, 2006, 304pp

Sharon Beder has been a prolific contributor to environmental analysis in Australia – and to the study of how corporations use their power, often in environmentally destructive ways. Here she turns her gaze on the current emphasis in public policy debates on using economic instruments for environmental control. Such instruments include tradeable pollution rights and other price-based measures that allow individuals and businesses to ‘pay to pollute’ once the overall baseline or cap has been determined by the regulatory authority.

Beder sets up three environmental protection principles – ‘sustainability’, ‘polluter pays’ and the ‘precautionary principle’ (if in doubt, don’t). She add three further principles of a more social character – the equity principle (including inter-generational equity), the human rights principle and the public participate principle. Economic instruments and ‘markets for conservation’ are shown to fare poorly in terms of most, if not all, of these. At a time when political parties – even including the Greens – to try to steer capitalism towards more ecological sustainability, this thoughtful contribution deserves the widest possible readership.

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