OECD Working Paper Compares Systems of Decentralized Environmental Governance

June 2011: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has published a research paper titled “Environmental Enforcement in Decentralised Governance Systems: Toward a Nationwide Level Playing Field” by Eugene Mazur that focuses on methods to promote consistency in the implementation of environmental law.

In particular, the report analyzes approaches to managing environmental compliance monitoring and enforcement in several countries with decentralized systems of environmental governance, including Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the US. After reviewing trade-offs between decentralization and centralized governance structures, the paper undertakes a comparative analysis to identify best practices of decentralized systems. The paper finds that decentralized governance modes differ widely from case to case, especially regarding enforcement and financial authority at lower levels.

It finds that OECD countries employ a range of mechanisms of institutional interaction: "vertical," between different administrative levels; as well as "horizontal," between competent authorities at the same level. The report presents multiple examples of the application of these mechanisms in different systems. It analyzes these good practices and suggests several ways to use them to ensure consistency in the implementation of the main elements of enforcement programmes.

The paper also identifies three elements of environmental enforcement key to ensuring national consistency of decentralized programmes: the targeting of compliance monitoring; the selection of an enforcement instrument and the timeliness of noncompliance response; and the size of monetary penalties for non-compliance. The report suggests ways to ensure national consistency in the implementation, including: joint environmental priority setting; comparable enforcement policies and interagency on responses to environmental violations; and use of consistent methodologies to determine penalties, aiming to eliminate the economic benefits of non-compliance. [Publication: Environmental Enforcement in Decentralised Governance Systems: Toward a Nationwide Level Playing Field]