How to Set Rational Environmental Goals : theory and applications

Abstract: Environmental goals are commonly set to guide work towards ecological sustainability. The aim of this thesis is to develop a precise terminology for the description of goals in terms of properties that are important in their practical use as decision-guides and to illustrate how it can be used in evaluations of environmental policy. Essay I (written together with Sven Ove Hansson) identifies a set of rationality criteria for individual goals and discusses them in relation to the typical function of goals. For a goal to perform its typical function, i.e., to guide and induce action, it must be precise, evaluable, approachable (attainable), and motivating. Essay II argues that for a goal system to be rational it must not only satisfy the criteria identified in Essay I but should also be coherent. The coherence of a goal system is made up of the relations that hold among the goals, most notably relations of support and conflict, but possibly also relations of operationalization. A major part of the essay consists in a conceptual analysis of the three relations. Essay III contains an investigation into the rationality of five Swedish environmental objectives through an application of the rationality criteria identified in Essays I-II. The paper draws the conclusion that the objectives are not sufficiently rational according to the suggested criteria. It also briefly points at some of the difficulties that are associated with the use of goals in environmental policy and managemen