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Legal Instruments for Phosphorus Supply Security

In: Journal for European Environmental & Planning Law
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This article will show which legal measures could lead to more sound use of phosphorus, and which might not. From the perspective of natural science, there are varying accounts as to how long phosphorus will still be available. It is, however, undisputed that phosphorus is a finite resource with vital importance to humankind. It is also certain that overusing phosphorus causes environmental damage further increased by permanent application. In this context, the usage of phosphorus from stocks contaminated by heavy metals might increasingly become an issue. Regulatory policy incentives are required towards establishing more sound phosphorus use with increased focus on recycling. So far, phosphorus has involved tentative proclamations rather than legally binding measures. However, classical regulatory measures directed at single actions – the command-and-control approach – will not suffice in addressing resource and environmental problems, as phosphorus problems are more appropriately viewed as quantity problems. Additional economic instruments are needed in order to avoid enforcement deficits, rebound and shifting effects, and to promote recycling while decreasing phosphorus consumption. These economic instruments would also help in addressing several environmental problems regarding land use, resources, biodiversity loss and climate change all at once.

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