The starting point for any type of policy analysis is a thorough understanding the issue. This was the topic of sections 4 and 5 of this module which addressed the questions: what is happening to the environment and why? and what are the impacts on the environment and humanity?
An adequate understanding of the issue would require the following information:
- Identification of the causal chain of drivers, pressures, state and impact for a given environmental issue.
- Development of specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) indicators for the key drivers, pressures, state and impacts.
- Identification of key points in time where policy(ies) had impact. Time-bound information is important for this, particularly for the state indicator.
See Exercise 5.6.3
Identifying and explaining key trends in environmental state indicators is a central part of creating a baseline understanding for policy analysis. Environmental state may be influenced by anthropogenic drivers and pressures and these typically have some underlying policies. For instance, over-fishing may be driven by the availability of easy credit for fishing fleet development and no restrictions on potentially damaging fishing practices. However, state variables are also affected by natural causes, and phenomena such as El Niño events can contribute to fish population dynamics in positive and negative ways.
Such an analysis can also be conducted to better understand pressures and drivers. The case example presented in section 4.4.2, relating to automobile fuel efficiency, illustrates this.