Valuing the benefits of environmental policy: the Netherlands

29-06-2001 | Publication

This study seeks to set priorities for environmental policy in the Netherlands. We focused on seven environmental issues including: climate change, acidification, low level ozone, particulate matter, noise, eutrophication and land contamination. These issues are prioritised using three different approaches: damage assessment, public opinion and 'disability adjusted life years'(DALYs).

According to the damage assessment approach the priorities, in terms of potential benefits from full control, are low level ozone, land contamination and particulate matter, followed by acidification and climate change, whilst noise and eutrophication are estimated to yield the lowest potential benefits from control. However, in the absence of cost estimates no conclusions can be reached on the desirability of control measures. Public opinion surveys show that environmental issues other than the seven considered in this study are a major concern for the Dutch public, namely chemical release and oil pollution. However, focusing on the seven issues considered in this study, the Dutch public rank, climate change, acidification, eutrophication and air pollution from cars (interpreted as low-level ozone and PM10) as the issues of most concern.

According to the DALYs approach the health effects of air pollution from particulate matter, and to a certain degree from low level ozone, dominate the disease burden. The future disease burden is largely due to changes in the population structure, i.e. an increasing, aged population. Another environmental problem associated with a high disease burden is noise exposure from road and air traffic. Based on a simple 'Borda count', a final ranking for the environmental issues is made.

This study concludes that land contamination, climate change and particulate matter are top priority environmental issues in the Netherlands, followed by acidification, low level ozone, eutrophication and finally noise. These findings suggest that future policies focusing on the top issues may yield considerable benefit depending on their cost of control. Although ranking environmental issues is useful in the sense of highlighting priority issues and indicating if there is any surprise environmental issues for the Netherlands. It is important to note that the benefit estimates offer only some guidance on environmental priorities, in the absence of data on costs of implementing policies only part of the picture necessary for establishing priorities is provided. For a full-scale economic analysis benefit estimates need to be compared with cost estimates within a CBA framework. This is outside the scope of this study, however a separate paper on the issues relating to and experience with such CBAs is presented in Annex II.