University of Cambridge > > Land Economy Seminar Series > Criminal sanctions to protect the environment: Economics, law, and empirical evidence

Criminal sanctions to protect the environment: Economics, law, and empirical evidence

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr A. Zabala.

About the speaker:

Timo Goeschl is Professor of Economics and Director of the Research Center for Environmental Economics at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. He previously taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Cambridge. His research interests are in Environmental and Resource Economics, the Economics of Regulation, and Law and Economics.

About the seminar:

US and EU environmental policy employ criminal sanctions to enforce compliance. This presentation will summarize the results of three recent papers that examine the empirical economics of using criminal sanctions for regulating environmental offences. After some general policy background on the use of criminal sanctions in an environmental context, the first set of results will deal with the empirical evidence as to the effectiveness of criminal sanctions. This part exploits a unique dataset to study the deterrent effect of criminal enforcement. The dynamic panel data analysis drawing on 15 German states and the time period from 1995 to 2005 leads to three findings. First, criminal sanctions do provide the intended deterrent effects. Second, standing trial provides one of the most significant deterrents, rather than the probability of conviction or the magnitude of fines. Third, public preferences regarding environmental quality and political economy variables affect reported environmental crime. The second set of results examines the effectiveness of criminal sanctioning in the sub-category of illegal waste disposals, which are one of the most important sources of environmental pollution worldwide. It does so at the county level with a single German state (Baden-Württemberg). The results broadly confirm and extend the findings at the federal level in the first part. At the same time, there is evidence that violations are treated differently depending on their local political economy context. The third set of results studies the determinants of enforcement decisions at the levels of the police, prosecutors, and judges. It assess the role of political factors in enforcement decisions and compares their relative weight at different levels. There is evidence for the presence of both opportunity cost considerations and political factors at all levels. In relative terms, the role of the political factors does not align with the degree of constitutional independence.

This talk is part of the Land Economy Seminar Series series.

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