Environmental Policy Often Has Undesirable Side Effects


Researchers from the University of Bonn show risks and possible counter strategies in a new publication.

"Good intentions" do not generally produce "good results". This wisdom also applies to establishing coherent environmental policies. Without proper oversight and planning, environmental policies can lead to unintended and harmful side effects. A current special issue of the journal Environmental Research Letters is devoted to this urgent problem. The guest editors are researchers from the University of Bonn and international partners.

Bioplastics is frequently understood as synonymous with green, sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives to petroleum based plastic products. This is not the whole story, however. While is true that plastics made from corn, wheat, or sugarcane are, in principle, climate-neutral and protect declining oil reserves - a broad shift in consumption from conventional to bio-based materials could be bad news for the environment given the current state of technology. After all, plant based raw materials are produced on land and unregulated agricultural expansion often leads to the conversion of natural, such as tropical forests. This jeopardizes climate change mitigation efforts, because forests bind considerably more carbon than, for instance, corn or sugar cane plantations. Hence, the unintended consequences of promoting “green” products through ill-designed environmental policies, could potentially lead to more harm than good for the global climate, not to mention other consequences, such as rising food prices and biodiversity loss.

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