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What is the Environmental Policy of the United States?
Blog...What is the Environmental Policy of the United States?

What is the Environmental Policy of the United States?

Green News
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Environmental policy is becoming a pivotal element to help nations of the world fight against climate change, protect ecosystems, and reduce emissions – how does environmental policy in the United States work?
Green News
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It takes a lot to run an entire country: from thinking about building codes, healthcare, insurance, and other various rights for residents – it can be easy to neglect environmental policy in the midst of all the other issues that need attention and care. However, in the midst of climate change, environmental policy is becoming more important than ever if the world wants to reduce emissions, save the planet, and protect future generations.

How does the United States handle environmental policy, how has it been successful, and how does it compare to the environmental policy established in other countries?

👉 In this article, we'll explain what environmental policy is, why it's important, the main goals of the national environmental policy act in the United States, and how U.S. environmental policy could be improved.

What is Environmental Policy?

Environmental Policy is an action taken by a government or other powerful entity, either public or private, that implements measures aimed at reducing the environmental impact created by human activity. More specifically, environmental policy is usually implemented in order to prevent current or future harm to our ecosystems – which help to sustain the environment’s overall well being. 

Environmental Policy is necessary due to the fact that environmental protocols are often disregarded in the midst of other large decisions to be made. This is often because environmental efforts can be viewed as a way of hindering the economy, which remains as an ongoing battle between Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. – with the latter arguing that environmental policy could have a negative impact on the economy of the United States.

In addition to this, many of the problems created by pollution and human activity do not elicit an immediate consequence. In other words, the effects of climate change appear over time instead of right away – meaning that environmental policy may not be viewed as a rewarding effort to many politicians or governments since the benefits aren’t to be had immediately.

However, environmental policy has started to become more common – with many states across the U.S. such as California realizing that finite resources like fossil fuels and oils are not infinite like renewable energy sources, nor are they good for the environment.

👉 Ultimately, environmental policy is a way to enforce environmental protocols and climate legislation – but the goals and success stories of environmental policy may differ depending on where in the world you are.

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What are the main goals of Environmental Policy?

Just as environmental policy may differ in how it works depending on the country it is implemented in, the goals for environmental policy are likely to differ around the world as well. However, in the U.S. – the main goal of the national environmental policy act is to ensure environmental quality is preserved nationwide and to promote the importance of environmental protection.

Despite where in the world environmental policy is exercised, all environmental policies are likely to have one main goal in common: and that is to incentivise better environmental action amongst the population.

This is because many people do not have the intrinsic motivation to implement more sustainable habits, meaning that environmental policy is necessary to ensure that people follow the environmental measures required to rectify the current state of our ecosystems and excess pollution. 

💡 National environmental policy such as NEPA requires federal agencies to determine their impact on human environment and even to conduct an environmental assessment, both of which can bring light to our environmental impacts and spur new federal regulations on behalf of the federal government.

An example of this value of environmental policy being practiced is with the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, as Biden implemented the opportunity for Americans to receive tax deductions if they are to install solar panels, energy efficient appliances in their homes, or purchase an electric car. Many Americans may not see or care about the environmental benefits of opting for these items, but if they are aware of the fact that they’ll receive a tax reduction – they are more likely to choose the more environmentally friendly option.

One of the main goals of environmental policy is to incentivise people to adhere to more sustainable or low-carbon practices in order to ensure that the nation implementing the environmental policy is able to meet their environmental targets on time.

More specifically, environmental policy in the U.S. is dedicated towards creating a balance between protecting the environment and preserving natural resources without implicating other goals the government seeks to achieve: such as stimulating the economy, creating new jobs, and ensuring that the transition to the use of clean energy remains affordable. Other goals of environmental policy in the U.S are to improve air quality, water quality, and waste management.

👉 Even though Environmental Policy is implemented by the federal government or another powerful entity responsible for making decisions regarding climate change or employing major federal actions, the success of environmental policy is contingent on the efforts of those who are required to follow the environmental policy in question – such as businesses or individuals.

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How does Environmental Policy work in the United States?

In the United States, environmental policy is operated by both the federal and state governments, and often works to monitor and influence the actions of businesses and individuals to protect the environment.

The main authority responsible for overseeing environmental policy in the U.S. is National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which is a national framework aimed towards protecting the environment and ensuring that all branches of the government to conduct an environmental review before making any massive decisions to national policy that could further aggravate climate change.

Some examples of other environmental policy in the United States include the following:

All of these acts, often implemented or heavily suggested by the Environmental Protection Agency at a federal level – seek to protect areas of the environment by mandating large companies and individuals with power to closely monitor their environmental impact and comply with new climate regulations as they come. 

💡 Think of environmental policy in a similar way to restaurants that need a license to serve alcohol. Many of those restaurants want the advantage of selling liquor, but it is only possible to do so with the correct permits – environmental policy works in a similar way to ensure that organizations and businesses meet certain criteria to clarify that their activities will not have a negative impact on the environment.

Some of the most common ways environmental policy is utilised in the U.S. is through regulation and financial incentives. Regulations are the mandates that are being created for companies to abide by, whereas financial incentives are when the government entices an individual or company to pick the more sustainable option and receive a refund or tax reduction in return.

Here's a table depicting some of the environmental policy that has been proposed federal actions and made an effort to encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between people and the planet:

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What is the current Environmental Policy in the United States?

The current environmental policy in the U.S. is shaped by a combination of federal laws, international agreements, and environmental regulations such as NEPA – The National Environmental Policy Act, to ensure that federal agencies meet all NEPA requirements and proposed action plans in line with the environmental needs across the country.

Other examples of environmental policy in the United States include the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act – all of which were born following careful environmental analysis under extraordinary circumstances in regards our changing climate.

What is NEPA?

Nepa is one of the United State's landmark initiatives to promote efforts towards mitigating significant impacts or negative environmental effects and ensuring a better understanding of natural resources important to the country.

💡 The Council on Environmental Quality has issued regulations for NEPA implementation and to promote the importance and value of the NEPA process.

Main Components of NEPA:

  • Drafting Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) – NEPA requires federal agencies to write an EIS for all major federal actions that may have an impact on the natural environment. Remember, an EIS is an in-depth analysis of how potential infrastructure projects or other business endeavors may impact the surrounding area and ecological systems in addition to including reasonable alternatives.
  • Conducting Environmental Assessments (EA) – For an categorical exclusion that isn't covered by NEPA procedures, organizations may fill out an EA in place of an EIS – which provides a brief on the various environmental factors implicated and potential procedural provisions to be made.
  • Categorical Exclusions (CE) – Any proposed actions that have been deemed to not have a significant impact on the proposed affected public may be exempt from a detailed environmental impact statement.
  • Public Involvement – NEPA established the importance of federal action to manage and monitor any irreversible and irretrievable commitments and to improve the overall scoping process to curate detailed a environmental analysis.
  • Collaboration – NEPA establishes the value in coordinating with federal agencies to ensure the human environment is as protected to its utmost potential.
The main goal of the NEPA policy is to promote environmental protection and to boost transparency and public engagement in the fight against global warming.

As opposed to when environmental policy was first brought into play in the United States by President Nixon nearly 50 years ago, environmental policy in the United States is no longer solely concerned with reducing emissions and fighting against climate change.

💡 In fact, many pieces of legislation aimed at encouraging the transition to the use of renewable energy sources in order to sustain the progress of any greenhouse gas emission reductions that have been made so far.

Examples of this include the new climate legislation implemented by the state of California last year, which includes the future banning of purchasing gasoline powered vehicles from 2035. This method of environmental policy will not only help to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the state, but it will force residents of California to seek more sustainable types of transportation and facilitate the transition to the use of clean energy – and ease the repeated use of fossil fuels and other finite resources harming the environment.

These days, the United States also seeks to use environmental policy to clean up toxic chemicals from previous oil spills and to implement widespread sustainability. This includes environmental policy such as research to develop new renewable energies, climate-friendly technologies, and new ways to reduce emissions without compromising on the quality of life and various amenities. 

👉 One of the biggest shifts in the environmental policy in the United States to date was with the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which provided nearly $370 billion to encourage the transition to the use of clean energy and by incentivizing Americans to choose energy efficient appliances or electric cars with a tax reduction. Long story short, this climate bill passed by the Biden administration last summer serves as a perfect example of how the United States tends to implement environmental policy.

How does the Environmental Policy of the United States differ from other countries?

Environmental policy is a worldwide concept, but it isn’t implemented or exercised in the same exact way everywhere in the world – such as in the European Union where environmental policy is more focused on prevention, precautionary measures, and seeking to resolve high sources of pollution directly at the source of productivity.

In other words, environmental policy in the EU seeks to avoid hazardous problems due to excess pollution – as opposed to the U.S., which as a whole has arguably waited longer to implement some of the compulsory environmental measures necessary to drastically reduce emissions and ensure the health of Americans.

💡 In addition to this, EU environmental policy must be reviewed when new scientific studies are available – allowing for constant moderation and adjustments according to the current environmental circumstances. 

However, there is one area where environmental policy in the United States and in other countries in the world often operate in a similar manner – and that’s using scientific-based data to adjust current or draft future environmental policy. This allows for countries implementing environmental policy to develop environmental policy that will create a reasonable timeline to achieve their respective environmental goals or emission reductions. 

👉 The United States is known to be a powerful country, but when it comes to environmental policy – the nation is lagging behind on implementing sustainable measures to fight climate change.

view of windmills on water in soest netherlands

How could Environmental Policy in the United States be improved?

There’s no doubt that in recent years, the United States has made great strides to improve environmental policy – but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t more that could be done to help the U.S. rank higher on environmental friendliness and efforts such as Denmark or Sweden.

Ultimately, the U.S. needs more stringent measures to be implemented in order to reduce emissions and achieve their environmental targets – especially seeing as the United States is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions in the world behind China.

However, one of the struggles in implementing a successful environmental policy throughout the United States is the fact that environmental policy may be established at a state level – causing various states across the country to reach the nation’s environmental goals sooner than others. 

Financial incentives and regulations are a good start, but the United States could keep building off of what they already have with their environmental policy. For instance, the U.S. could seek to impose stricter fines for companies that pollute too much or place higher taxes on those who don’t opt for electric cars.

👉 In other words, the United States should seek to use environmental policy to the utmost extent they currently have in place in order to maximise their results. Eliciting fear with excess fees may work in the short-term, but in the long run – it’s going to take a lot more than money to drive down the current rate of emissions in the country.

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article about environmental policy in the United States has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

Environmental policy can become difficult to manage given the current situation regarding climate change, but don’t worry – Greenly is here to help you and your business manage all of the environmental policies to come. Check out our legislation tracker here to see which rules your company has to adhere to.

We offer a free demo for you to better understand our platform and all that it has to offer – including assistance with boosting supplier engagement, personalized assistance, and new ways to involve your employees.

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