Civil society’s role on economic instruments for the environment  [PDF version]

An IEEP-led study for the European Commission is investigating how civil society can help make economic instruments for pollution reduction and natural resource management more effective. A set of 40 new case studies reveals the roles stakeholders can play during the policy-making process. 


EU Member States increasingly use economic instruments, such as a range of taxes and fees, to help reduce pollution and promote effective natural resource management. Such instruments can help reinforce the polluter-pays principle and attain environmental policy objectives.

To encourage further use of economic instruments, IEEP is leading a major study for the European Commission to build capacity on environmental taxation and budgetary reform. The study focuses the design of economic instruments, but also at how civil society can – and does – engage to make them effective.

Case studies on 40 specific instruments across Europe have been compiled. The case studies have revealed the roles civil society stakeholders play during policy-making on economic instruments. 

Civil society can help make the case for and shape the design of instruments. For example, the Hungarian NGO Clean Air Action Group kick-started discussions on an air pollution charge that was then adopted. Taking on board key stakeholders’ concerns helped overcome opposition to Danish taxes on pesticides and phosphorus in animal feed and gain support for the instruments’ design.

In some cases, civil society has helped with the implementation of instruments, including the evaluation of their effectiveness. For example, Estonian fishermen are consulted each year on new fishing fees. An executive committee including many stakeholders is responsible for the implementation and enforcement of Dutch water pricing policy. Stakeholders have helped to evaluate and revise Czech air pollution fees and the UK landfill tax, while a consultation board of environmental NGOs was responsible for assessing the effectiveness of the Latvian packaging tax. 

The above examples show that civil society engagement can lead to more robust instruments that are more successful in achieving their environmental objectives. For these reasons, engagement is beneficial for civil society, for government bodies and implementing authorities and for the environment.

The role of civil society in the development of economic instruments for pollution and natural resources will be further discussed at five workshops in early 2017 (see Conferences & Events). A final conference will take place in June, and the final study report will also be published in the summer.

For more information on the project, please contact Emma Watkins or Patrick ten Brink.