Environmental policy tools and evaluation

Spatial Planning INstruments and the Environment (SPINE)


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.

0914 cities and climate change


SPINE is OECD’s project to assess the environmental and economic effectiveness of spatial and land-use planning instruments, as well as the potential gains from policy reforms.

To achieve these objectives, SPINE relies on analytical, modelling and empirical work, investigating the relationships between land use patterns, socioeconomic outcomes, environmental pressures, and the use of specific policy instruments. SPINE mainly focuses on cities, as they are not only major drivers of economic growth and employment, but also the places where many environmental, economic and social challenges have to be tackled.

Work on SPINE is largely spatially explicit and, therefore, requires extensive use of high-resolution geospatial data.


latest report




Brochure: Spatial Planning INstruments and the Environment (PDF) 


Urban sprawl in OECD countries

Ongoing work on SPINE comprises multiple streams. A first stream focuses on urban sprawl in OECD countries. This stream considers urban sprawl as a multidimensional phenomenon and develops a quantitative mapping of its different dimensions in OECD urban areas. The mapping is based on the construction of a new set of indicators, facilitated by the use of fine-resolution geospatial data. Work in this area also analyses the causes of urban sprawl and its environmental and economic effects. In addition, it discusses policies to address some of the possible consequences of sprawl and direct urban development to more sustainable pathways.


The effects of parking on the environment and social welfare

This stream of work analyses the environmental and economic issus associated with parking and current parking policies. The stream focuses on residential, shopping mall and employer-provided parking. Its ultimate objective is to propose possible parking policy reforms which could lead to noticeable environmental benefits and increases in social welfare. To achieve this objective, it draws on evidence from the existing literature and from a new empirical application.

Policy analysis based on city case studies

The environmental, economic and social effects of urban policies are highly context-specific. Hence, policy analysis needs to take into account the geographical, behavioural and policy idiosyncracies of each city. To this end, SPINE conducts case studies in a number of OECD urban areas. Work on these case studies is based on MOLES, the new integrated land-use and transport model developed by the OECD, and refined geospatial, administrative and survey data. These case studies will provide insights into the effects of certain land-use and transport policy instruments on greenhouse gas emissions, the exposure of urban population to air pollution, the function of land and housing markets, and housing affordability.


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.

Brochure: Earth observation for decision-making (PDF)

environment WORKING PAPERS




Two pieces of foundational work set the scene for later work on SPINE. Foundational work led to 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. Based on the foundations provided by these two pieces, the OECD conducted a series of empirical studies analysing:

  • the linkage between urban structure, air pollution and individual well-being;
  • the economic effects of environmental zoning in France;
  • the determinants of open space conservation in U.S. urban areas and its implications for local finance.

For more details on completed work on SPINE, see the list of Working Papers provided above .



Related Documents