1993 volume 25(12) pages 1759 – 1772
doi:10.1068/a251759

Cite as:
Pan J H, Hodge I D, 1993, "Environmental standards versus structural changes as sustainability alternatives: an empirical evaluation of nitrate pollution control" Environment and Planning A 25(12) 1759 – 1772

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Environmental standards versus structural changes as sustainability alternatives: an empirical evaluation of nitrate pollution control

J H Pan, I D Hodge

Received 2 December 1992

Abstract. The debate on the appropriate criteria for environmental sustainability encompasses a variety of approaches, ranging from conventional environmental standards through to complete system changes. In this paper, the relevance of the sustainability debate to practical decisionmaking is tested in an empirical context of nitrate pollution control in eastern England. Five alternative criteria (no control, aggregate and uniform standards, low and zero nitrogen- input systems) are specified for examination. These are assessed and compared by using a linear programming model. Conventional environmental standards are seen as more cost effective than low and zero input systems. It appears that various approaches can be consistent with sustainability objectives and are relevant to environmental management problems. The choice of approaches has significant environmental and economic implications in practice. However, all the control alternatives have their own strengths and each may be preferable in some specific circumstances.

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