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This article will present different policy tools for use in environmental policy more specific in coastal zone management (CZM). The Policy tools are structured from a macro level (societal), but are also seen from a system perspective. In this perspective society is understood as a set of social systems that relates to their environment through a set of codes, symbols and tools. The various types of instruments or measures belong to a social system cultural, legal or economic. The strategies’ starting point is that the political institutions and their actors– i.e. politicians, technocrats and other managers need be aware of possibilities and limitations to governing coastal zones’ complexity. Most of the policy strategies involve use of two or more of these instruments working together; in other words, they are complementary. The article also link the different instruments to institutional levels – showing on what level they are most common in use, whether it’s on the local, regional, national or international level.


In the SPICOSA project one important approach is based from the fact that coastal systems are under increasing human and environmental pressures. One consequence of this is the recognition that we need more new and innovative efforts to manage the coastal zones as integrated functional systems. One solution is to improve the way research, decision making and management can be linked together in the governance of coastal zones. One way to systematically do this is to use the SPICOSA’s System Approach Framework to model and predict inputs and outcomes of different kinds of policy instruments. On the other hand, in social science there are different theories and perspectives to analyze and understand society, social action and government. One of them is a system theory that focuses on major social systems in a macro perspective. Society is here to be seen as a social system including various functional systems (eg. the economic system, legal system, cultural system, and others). Society is linked to the surrounding ecological systems by individuals and social systems. We deal with nature and nature given life (ecology) through cultural, economical and other activities. This model tries to link ecosystems and social systems. Each government or management at any level of society has to rely on these systems to govern or manage a limited field of policy action. The economic system, the legal system and the social or cultural system can therefore bee seen as set of instruments in management of a policy field or area- here the coastal ecosystem. In the integration of science and policy in coastal zone assessment this perspective can be useful. The goal is to help any manager to understand what type of legislation tool or instrument is adequate to a sustainable management of the coastal zone.

Coastal zone management is, from a manager’s point of view, a set of tools in solving challenges and problems in the coastal zone:

We can identify a handful of different types of management or policy tools:

  • deliberative processes,
  • legislative controls,
  • planning,
  • economic instruments (taxes and subsidies),


  • measures and at last, using technology to help or solve social or environmental problems.

These tools can be seen as alternatives or complementary strategies.

The SPICOSA project’s System Approach Framework (SAF) deals with the identification of one or more environmental problems in the coastal zone, then make a model for dealing with this problem and predict the outcome. The SAF is about designing of a conceptual model taking account of social and economic factors as well as the ecosystem. This article is a broad presentation of the policy instruments known available applicable as alternative strategy both in the SAF context and in addition to social system approach.

Policy instruments in coastal zone management

Environmental policy instruments include official restrictions and positive incentives designed to control activities that may be harmful to the environment or promote the opposite. We can divide between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ policy instrument. In environmental policy soft instruments will implement typical voluntary, non-binding recommendations and guidelines. Soft policy is relatively new in environmental policy and opens for less authoritative than traditional hard policy instruments (se Hertin & al 2004). Hard policy instruments will on the opposite of this be hierarchical regulations, forcing legislations and taxes. These policies can be seen as the ‘command and control’ approach (Hertin & al 2004) Environmental policy went through radical changes in the 1980s, when there was a shift away from dealing with narrower problem areas towards broader and more integrated assessments of environmental issues. Environmental policies have subsequently included more preventive measures and controls imposed on potentially harmful activities, rather than corrective measures to repair existing damage. At the same time we have seen a shift to more soft policies and more desentrased approaches (Jordan & al 2002, Hertin & al 2004). New environmantal policy also includes market-based instruments, such as eco-labels, eco-taxes and tradable permits (Jordan & al. 2002).

In the framework of system approach we have classified policy instruments in coastal zone management into social and informative measures, legislative controls, economic instruments, and technology based initiatives. This kind of classification derives from the idea that policy can influence the system response to improve susteinability in the coastal zones. This is an approach that can be effective to diagnose a problem and set in relevant tool to deal with these problems, weather they are of a natural or a societal kind. It can also be helpful to foresee how different kind of tools can meet different kinds of challenges. Portal SPICOSA