Environmental policy tools and evaluation

Spatial Planning INstruments and the Environment (SPINE)


SPINE tractor man land

People, economic activity, and environmental amenities are unevenly distributed across space. This also holds for the majority of environmental externalities. Spatial planning, the public policy toolbox used to alter their distribution, is one of the domains where the tensions between economic and environmental objectives are particularly acute. These tensions are, furthermore, expected to escalate as demand for housing, energy, food, fibre, but also ecosystem services, are growing.

This page outlines the analytical and empirical work that OECD undertakes to assess the environmental and economic effectiveness of spatial and land use planning instruments, as well as the potential gains from policy reforms. This work consists of a series of spatially explicit empirical analyses of the relationships between land use patterns, socioeconomic outcomes, environmental pressures, and the use of specific policy instruments.

The performance of these analyses requires extensive use of geo-referenced data, as well as the development of an analytical framework for spatial planning and land use patterns and policies, and an inventory and typology of spatial planning systems and instruments.


environment WORKING PAPERS




Analytical framework for spatial planning and land use patterns and policies

This project develops a coherent analytical framework, which:

  • provides insights into the major linkages between land use patterns and the economic and environmental systems;
  • describes the major channels through which changes in land use and land use patterns affect economic development and the environment;
  • justifies the role of spatial planning and land use policies by underlining how they can address the economic and environmental challenges posed by land use patterns; and
  • identifies the potential social and economic consequences of these policies.

This framework provides the background for the spatially explicit analyses and guides the selection of appropriate empirical methods for their performance.

Inventory and typology of spatial planning systems and policy instruments

This project develops an inventory and typology of spatial planning systems and policy instruments, which:

  • reflects the division of powers and responsibilities among different levels of governance (institutionally and territorially) and;
  • aims to characterise spatial planning instruments in terms of their objectives (raising revenue, wealth redistribution, environmental, social), type of instrument used (command-and-control vs. market-based) and stringency.


  • How are urban sprawl and other land-use patterns manifested in OECD countries?
  • How does urban structure affect local air pollution?
  • What are the effects of open space conservation on housing, development and local public finance?
  • Are current spatial policies against natural risks effective and adaptable to a changing climate?
  • Are stringent land-use controls effective and efficient policy instruments for nature conservation?
  • What are the possible side-effects of nature conservation policies in peri-urban areas?



A major contribution of this project is the collection and processing of detailed geospatial data for all OECD countries, as well as for OECD Partners and accession countries. These data enable the construction of various land use indicators, which are an essential input for the spatially explicit empirical analyses. They also facilitate the performance of a number of analyses where spatial heterogeneity has to be taken under consideration.


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