A comparison of economic and participatory approaches to environmental evaluation
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The use o f economic valuation methods to inform environmental policy has become increasingly popular in recent years. In particular, the contingent valuation method, used to provide data to feed into cost benefits analysis, has proved particularly widespread. Despite this, a large body o f literature has developed which has identified and detailed significant flaws in the contingent valuation method. In view o f this literature, some researchers have begun to develop alternative means by which environmental projects can be evaluated, and to inform environmental policy. This thesis reports on research to develop this work by comparing two alternative but established methods o f project evaluation, and one newly developed method in the context o f a forest floodplain restoration project in the Ettrick Valley in the Borders Region o f Scotland. The project aims to expand and create forest floodplain habitats whilst ensuring a partnership approach is maintained with the local community. The thesis evaluates the project using three distinct approaches. The first, an economic approach, uses the contingent valuation method to estimate the total economic value o f the scheme. Results suggest that the project has a mean value o f £13.18 per respondent, and a minimum aggregate value o f approximately £450,000, as compared to an estimated cost o f £335,000. The second approach uses participatory methodology - a Citizens’ Jury. The Jury met to assess the project and to provide qualitative information to policymakers and concluded that the project was valuable to the community in a variety o f ways, for example by protecting and maintaining flora and fauna, and by providing a resource by which people could learn about the natural environment. The final newly developed approach attempts to combine economic and participatory methods in a workshop scenario. First, participants were asked to complete a CV questionnaire. This was followed by structured discussion about the project, after which they were asked if they would like to revise their bid. This approach provided qualitative information comparable to the information provided by the Citizens’ Jury, and quantitative information comparable to that provided by the contingent valuation approach. The mean WTP stated by respondents before the discussion (£11.07) was not significantly different from the mean W TP stated after the discussion (£13.59). This combined method allows the efficiency criterion and the community involvement element to be addressed in tandem. The thesis assesses the theory, implementation and results o f the three methods in evaluating the floodplain restoration project. It concludes with recommendations on how this research can aid environmental policy, and how it might be taken forward to further enhance environmental evaluation.