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Requirements that environmental programs must meet in order to deliver value for money are identified, illustrated and discussed. It is argued that environmental managers and policy makers should carefully consider the extent to which potential policies and investments deliver environmental outcomes, not just outputs and activities. Processes for ranking potential environmental investments need to consider a sufficient set of information to properly evaluate benefits and costs. That information must be in a rigorous way. Many ranking systems in practical use do not meet these requirements. Environmental projects of different scales and intensities can vary greatly in the value for money that they offer, so different versions of a project should be evaluated and compared. The effectiveness of a program or project can be sensitive to the policy mechanism(s) used, so these too should be compared and evaluated for each potential project. Programs should be designed in a way that provides incentives for environmental managers to develop and pursue projects that provide high value for money, rather than creating barriers to that outcome. In some cases environmental economists could increase the value for money from investments in their research and analysis by avoiding the over-concentration of effort into a subset of the many types of information needed to make sound management and policy decisions. There are several reasons to expect that relatively less detailed or sophisticated information may provide greater value for money: diminishing marginal benefits from sophistication and detail, increasing marginal costs of sophistication and detail, and the limited capacities of potential users of this information. There is significant potential to improve the value for money generated by public investments in environmental projects and in environmental economics, although there are significant challenges in each case.


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