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Keywords:

  • cost–benefit analysis;
  • economic valuation;
  • Water Framework Directive;
  • instrument choice;
  • interests;
  • beliefs;
  • water policy

ABSTRACT

In recent decades cost–benefit analysis (CBA) and environmental benefit valuation have been assigned a significant role for environmental policy-making and have been integrated as economic tools into the EC Water Framework Directive. The primary aim of the study is to explore the role that interests of bureaucratic actors as well as their beliefs might play in the application of environmental CBA. The paper draws on different analytical approaches derived from a political economy and a policy science perspective to explain the apparent reluctance to use the results of CBA and benefit estimates in policy-making. The empirical findings of a qualitative survey among German water policy-makers reveal that the self-interested behaviour of bureaucratic actors impedes the use of CBA, but also suggest a considerable influence of beliefs that shape actors’ perception of the suitability of economic valuation approaches for environmental policy-making. A differentiated view on these restraints might contribute to a reasonable use of procedural economic instruments in order to achieve environmental objectives. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment