Monthly Archives: May 2007

100 – A jolly good Fellow

I have been awarded a Federation Fellowship. What does it all mean?

I had a very enjoyable visit to Canberra last week. Finally, eight months after applications closed, the Minister for Science announced this year’s crop of 20 Federation Fellowships, and I was lucky enough to make the grade.

The Fellowships are provided by the Australian Research Council, the Australian Government’s main funding body for University research. They are well rewarded for five years, and are across all research disciplines, so it’s very competitive to win one.

Of the new Fellows, three quarters are from from high-tech science fields, with topics like quantum nanoscience, astrophotonics, quantum computers, polymer nanomaterials, photonic integrated circuits, nanophotonics, and so on. (“Nano” is obviously the big buzz word.) By comparison, my research field felt rather homely. There were a few other Fellows who also deal with the human dimension, notably my colleague in economics, John Quiggin, whose stellar research performance was justly rewarded with his second Federation Fellowship. Congratulations John.

On the personal front, it means that we’ll be moving back to the Perth campus of the University of Western Australia at the end of 2007. It really is a wrench to leave beautiful Albany, especially for my family, but there is plenty of bright side to look on.

On the work front, I will be establishing a Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at UWA, with the aim of improving environmental policy programs for land, water and biodiversity conservation. Using the resources of the Fellowship, and hopefully other proposals we have in the pipeline, we’ll tackle a range of issues that should contribute to this end, including:

  • consolidating the work on SIF3 the Salinity Investment Framework III.
  • analysing the balance of investment between on-ground works that produce changes in the short term, versus technology development that takes longer to pay off but does so on a larger scale.
  • analysing the relative importance of (a) choosing which environmental assets to protect, (b) choosing which policy mechanisms to use to protect them, and (c) the detailed operation of the policy mechanism that is used. In practice, (b) gets little attention, but I have a hunch that it’s as important as the others.
  • understand more about the way that policies influence landholder behaviour.
  • understand more about the ways that policy program design influences the behaviour of environmental management organisations.
  • adapting the SIF3 approach beyond salinity to address new environment issues.
  • new bioeconomic models for those issues.

We’ll also bring other environmental economics research in the School of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UWA (e.g. experimental economics, non-market valuation) under the umbrella of the new Centre, linking strongly to policy processes, and providing new opportunities for post-graduate students.

With this new Centre, together with John Quiggin’s team at the University of Queensland, and the newly announced CERF “Hub” in environmental economics at the Australian National University, environmental economics in Australian universities looks to be in robust good health.

David Pannell, The University of Western Australia

99 – Environmental policy: Canada vs Australia

This article highlights some of the similarities and differences between Australia and Canada in environmental policy, and speculates about reasons for the differences.

I spent six months in Canada in 1995 and have been back (more briefly) a couple of times since. It is a place where I can feel very much at home, although I must admit the weather can be a challenge, as it was when I visited Guelph last month.

In the area of environmental policy, Canada and Australia have a number of similarities, but also some differences. I reflected on some of each recently while reading a new article titled “Reflections on Environmental Policy in Canada” by Vic Adamowicz in the Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics.

Similarities

  • Broadly speaking, in both countries there has been relatively weak enforcement of environmental regulations, particularly in the past. There is a preference for negotiation, and voluntary compliance, rather than application of standards.
  • Much of the responsibility for environmental policy lies with provincial/state governments, who tend to each do their own thing to some extent. National environmental programs attempt to influence what happens at the provincial/state level.
  • Benefit Cost Analysis is rarely used to inform decisions about policy or on-ground interventions. There are strong policy agencies concerned with economics and finance but, with some exceptions, the environmental agencies tend to place little emphasis on economics.
  • There is a need for greater capacity in the design and application of economic policy instruments for environmental issues.
  • A lot of the funding under environmental programs relating to agriculture is not particularly targeted.

Differences

  • Australia’s history with the Landcare program has no real parallel in Canada. Landcare has probably raised awareness of environmental issues among Australian farmers to a higher level than exists in Canada, although I suspect that the difference in actual responsiveness to environmental issues is much less than the difference in awareness.
  • Canada has made much less use of markets, in particular for water. Australia does use markets for water up to a point, although there is plenty of scope for their more extensive use.
  • Australia has made greater use of economic policy instruments for land and water conservation. This is perhaps due to the efforts of a few passionate and articulate individuals, who blazed a trail with pilot programs like BushTender and EcoTender. Presumably, it was their influence that led to the Market-Based Instruments Pilot Program that has operated under the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality. Arguably, the enthusiasm by policy makers for economic instruments in Australia has sometimes even been excessive (Pannell 2001), in contrast to the indifference that is apparent in Canada.

I shared a draft of this piece with Vic, and one of his responses was to wonder why the above differences have occurred. He speculated that some may be due to real differences in the scarcity of resources. For example, much of Canada has water resources to an extent that Australians can hardly imagine. According to Wikipedia Canada has more than 31,000 lakes with surface areas of at least 3 square km, and for four of its largest provinces, the area of water is at least 10% of the area of land! On the Australian mainland, outside the tropics, the number of large permanent fresh lakes is tiny – a mere handful. Most of the lakes we do have are salt lakes, man-made lakes or coastal lakes and lagoons. Perhaps this difference in water abundance has prompted Australian policy makers to be more innovative and adventurous.

On the other hand, it may just be about people: the persuasiveness of individuals, the capacities of agencies, different levels of familiarity with alternatives, or different tendencies towards policy inertia. It might be interesting to probe the reasons further.

Whatever the reasons, given the broad similarities in culture and institutions, there would seem to be good potential for us to learn from each others successes and failures in environmental policy. On the other hand, perhaps I am being too optimistic – we sometimes seem to have trouble learning from our own successes and failures.

David Pannell, The University of Western Australia

Further Reading

Adamowicz, W. (2007). Reflections on Environmental Policy in Canada, Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics 55: 1-13.

Pannell, D.J. (2001). Harry Potter and the pendulums of perpetual motion: Economic policy instruments for environmental management, Connections: Farm, Food and Resource Issues 1: 3-8.* http://www.agrifood.info/connections/summer_2001/Pannell.html