Introduction: Political decisions

While in the themes on driving forces and distribution the focus is mostly on conflicts over distribution in relation to the environment in a very broad perspective, in this theme, we examine the conflicts and dilemmas that arise in relation to environmental challenges in a narrower and more local perspective. When the political system has to deal with environmental problems, it gives rise to many dilemmas, where different interests have to be weighed against each other. In a democracy, it is not possible to exercise brute force, which means the political battleground for the environment and many other causes is characterised by arguments and methods that make these arguments convincing. If you want to promote a special interest, it is particularly effective if you can make it appear to be in the interest of society as a whole. One of these battlegrounds is focused on the design of socio-economic analyses.

The next section discusses how socio-economic analyses are applied in practice and some of the controversies that are specifically associated with the use of cost-benefit analysis (CBA). Thereafter, some alternative methods are presented that may be used to support policy decisions, while in the last paragraph, some more fundamental considerations about value and prices are discussed.

Next: Socio-economic analyses in practice