Command and control regulations have been the linchpin of most environmental regulations around the world for over three decades. Notwithstanding some success in reducing pollution, there have been mounting criticisms of the command and control approach. Some question its effectiveness, particularly in light of the weak inspection and monitoring regimes that come with tightening regulatory budgets. Some suggest that command and control fosters a costly adversarial relationship between governments and regulated firms, a worrisome trend because environmental governance in future may require a more cooperative relationship between governments and businesses. Others blame command and control for undermining static and dynamic efficiencies, misallocating resources and hindering technological growth, all of which are important for combating pollution. An important fear is that command and control's deficiencies will accentuate as pollution challenges shift from the regulated visible and large sources to more diverse, smaller non-point sources.
While the particularly shrill criticisms are overstated, there does appear to be room for experimenting with novel regulatory approaches that can complement command and control. The idea is to empower environmental governance systems to respond better to environmental problems of today and of the future. The quest for new environmental governance tools looks to shift from an exclusive reliance on centralized rule design and enforcement to creating incentives that induce firms to take environmentally progressive action voluntarily. At the risk of being repetitive, we want to make it clear that we are not advocating the dismantling of command and control environmental regulations.