Has Politics Failed the Environment?

Among the most controversial regional questions of our age are how serious is environmental degradation in the MENA countries and why? Simply put, it is because the countries of the MENA region have exhausted their share of natural resources, well beyond the sustainable levels. Environmental problems in the region range from water scarcity, water quality, air pollution, and land degradation to over exploitation of marine resources. Not only do these problems injure the environment but also they has a inverse relationship to inequality and poverty levels.

ERF dedicated a session of the 19thannual conference to a book launch for an extraordinary new publication: Economic Incentives and Environmental Regulations edited by Hala Abou-Ali. Published by Edward Elgar, in cooperation with ERF, this book explores challenges related to water sanitation and hygiene, air pollution, and land degradation in a diversified portfolio of MENA countries. These countries have very different socio-economic profiles, yet they all share the same environmental problems.

Economic tools box to provide a better grasp of environmental issues
Extensive country analyses are supported by references to the economic literature on regulation and incentives, and encompass recent trends in environmental management modes and policy orientations. The topical chapters include a critical review of environmental policies with a focus on economic incentives on various environmental issues including irrigation water, air pollution, solid waste management and the impact of climate change and fisheries.- Edward Elgar

The session saw discussion on issues such as reasons for the lack of the environmental agenda. Institutions often fail consider the environment when making decisions for ecological reform, while instruments used to reduce environmental problems are often inefficient at mitigating environmental issues. Essentially, political issues become environmental problems.

The core of the environmental agenda is mainly political- argues Mohamed Yasser Sherif, Enviroics.  There is an evident gap in environmental research in the MENA region but the book provides technical contributions for political economy reform. It also provides practical evidence and recommendations to be taken up by policy makers and fed into decision-making processes. Findings of this study needs to be packaged appropriately and translated to a language understandable by policymakers.

Finally, the book notes some prospects, challenges, and implications of some market based instruments that can be used to mitigate Co2 emissions and control down industrial waste. It is considered an incentive  to worry about environmental policies that may mitigate and reduce issues arising from environmental degradation. It also draws a picture about the magnitude of economic costs to environmental issues in the hope of raising awareness, changing behavior and creating a new generation of citizens to take these issues seriously.

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