Classification of policy instruments

There are many possible classifications of (environmental) policy instruments. The following classification is based on Juerges and Hansjürgens (2018).


Regulatory instruments: also command-and-control instruments; legally binding standards for soil management practices based on international, supra-regional, national, or subnational laws. Typically, the individual land user (e.g. farmer) is the addressee of regulatory instruments.


Example: binding limits on fertilisation according to the EU Nitrate Directive (included in Common Agricultural Policy [CAP] cross-compliance standards)


Planning instruments: legally binding standards for soil use or protection-based spatial planning (e.g. land-use plans defining areas with a priority for soil protection). Planning instruments usually have a local or regional scope.


Example: German communal landscape plans


Economic instruments: financial incentives for certain soil management practices, for example based on subsidies, taxes, or tradable permits.


Example: Agri-Environmental and Climate Measures of the CAP


Informational instruments: awareness raising instruments; provision of information about impacts on soils of specific soil management practices, for example via soil information web-portals or certification schemes.


Example: EU organic food label


Co-operative instruments: based on participation of stakeholders in decision-making, for example based on round-table meetings. The implementation of co-operative instruments is often voluntary (e.g. voluntary agreements of stakeholders to adopt specific soil management practices).


Policy mix: combination of multiple instruments in a ‘thematic package’. Ideally, there should be one instrument per specific policy goal (Tinbergen rule).


Example: EU Common Agricultural Policy

  • Juerges, N., Hansjürgens, B., 2018. Soil governance in the transition towards a sustainable bioeconomy – A review. Journal of Cleaner Production 170C: 1628-1639. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.10.143