US environmental report card: could do better

The US should make more efficient use of water and energy resources if it is to safeguard economic prosperity while protecting the environment and human health.

These are two of the main findings of the latest OECD review of environmental policy in the US. It fins that, while progress has been made in certain key areas, more effort is needed in others.

Unsurprisingly, it also recommends that the US play a more proactive role in dealing with global environmental concerns.

The review evaluates the ways in which the US manages air quality, water resources and biodiversity and the way it integrates environmental concerns into economic and fiscal policies.

On the basis of this evaluation, the report recommends that the US should:

  • allocate water more rationally and address persistent quality problems in surface water;

  • use energy more efficiently in order to remain internationally competitive in the face of rising energy prices while responding to concerns about global warming;

  • make more use of economic instruments to reinforce environmental objectives and to apply the polluter pays principle;

  • better integrate nature conservation and climate adaptation concerns into land use and coastal zone planning;

  • develop and implement a national environmental health strategy, targeting cost-effective reductions of environmental health risks;

  • follow through on undertakings in relation to international environmental co-operation, with particular focus on climate protection, biodiversity and managing chemicals.

    However, the report does recognise the US’ achievements since 1996 including reducing emissions of lead and nitrogen oxides as well as its leadership in actual environmental science.

    Overall though, the OECD report urges the United States to increase the efficiency of its environmental management projecting that doing so would yield economic benefits.

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