When ranking environmental projects

Mixing a little theory, logic and common sense leads to better outcomes

Around the world, thousands of different systems have been used to rank environmental projects for funding. Unfortunately, judging from the many examples I have examined, most of the systems
in use are very poor. Indeed, the performance of many of them is not much better than choosing projects at random. If only people would be more logical and thorough in their approach to ranking
environmental projects! The potential to reduce wastage and improve environmental outcomes is enormous.
Attempting to get managers, researchers, policy people and decision makers to appreciate this has been a major driving force behind much of my work in environmental economics. It led to the creation of the INFFER framework (Pannell et al, 2013) and it also has sparked many editorials on my blog, Pannell Discussions. Towards the beginning of this year I began a series of short and simple blogs on this theme of ranking environmental projects. My intention was go through the basic process, step by step, outlining the logic and warning about the common mistakes. The original aim was a half dozen articles, but the series took on a life of its own. There seemed to be a lot to say about each element. Some grew so much that they needed to be split into more than one episode. I also kept having ideas about additional topics to cover.
Six instalments grew to become 20, and this series has now dominated my blog in 2013. If you have any involvement or interest in ranking environmental projects, I’d encourage you to read them.
Below is a quick rundown of the main topic areas included.Each topic is relatively straightforward. However, when put together there is a bit of detail to take in. One reaction I sometimes get is that
it all looks too complicated and surely isn’t worth the bother. My response is to ask, if you could double your budget for projects by putting a bit more effort into your project ranking process, would
you do so? Of course you would. Doubling the environmental benefits generated from your environmental investments is rather like doubling your budget. If your current ranking system is of
the usual questionable quality (does it correctly answer the nine questions asked here?), doubling the benefits (or more) is readily achievable using the approaches advocated here…

 

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