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Governments need to put their hearts into controlling environmental degradation and encouraging sustainable lifestyles. Many of them are already doing a lot, but they could all do more. Leaders need to be visionary!

Set up government institutions: A ministry of environment directly responsible for the environment helps to keep environmental issues at the centre of all government planning. Most nations now have them.

Make laws: The obvious way to protect the environment is to make laws against destroying or damaging it. Those who break the laws should be punished with fines or imprisonment.

Implement and enforce laws: If you have laws, you have to enforce them with police and law courts.

Public participation: Local people are more likely to have an understanding of their environmental problems and solutions than distant institutions. So involving the public in decision-making and allowing them access to information will generally result in quicker and more appropriate responses to issues.

Regional cooperation: Regional groups can often work more quickly and effectively to deal with regional problems.

Intelligent prices: It would make sense to tax things that pollute the environment and give financial assistance, called subsidies, to things that do not. But many governments do the reverse by subsidising things that pollute!

Promote new technology: Governments can do more to make industry pay for pollution it creates and encourage new non-polluting technologies.

Deal with social issues: Poverty, population growth and social behaviour get to the root causes of environmental degradation. Investing in solutions to social issues helps the environment.

Here are some ideas GEO-2000 suggests our leaders should focus on:

Combine land and water management. One department integrating land and water management together with social and economic issues would ensure more balanced decision-making.
Change to cleaner technology that does not pollute air or water. Technology exists to reduce pollution Ė letís use it!

Decrease energy use through energy and carbon taxes. Make those who use more, pay more. Switch to pollution-free technology.

More action to protect forests through research, education, sustainable forest management, more protected areas with benefits going to the local community and eco-tourism.

Play fair. Public money is often provided as an incentive to individuals and companies to produce goods and services. This money is called a subsidy. The goal of governments should be to stop the subsidies which have a negative effect on the environment and which encourage individuals and companies to be wasteful.

Manage water resources for agriculture. Improve awareness and provide loans and incentives to help farmers repair leaks and switch to more efficient irrigation systems.

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Idir Kerkouche, Algeria

web site editor: webmaster@grida.no Last update: March 2000