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Air as a common good

Pontin, B.; Everard, M.; Appleby, T.; Staddon, C.; Hayes, E. T.; Longhurst, J. W.S.; Everard, Mark; Pontin, Ben; Appleby, Thomas; Staddon, Chad; Hayes, Enda T; Longhurst, James; Barnes, J. H.


B. Pontin

M. Everard

T. Appleby

C. Staddon

E. T. Hayes

J. W.S. Longhurst

Mark Everard
Associate Professor in Ecosystem Services

Ben Pontin

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Chad Staddon
Professor/Associate Head of Department: Research and Scholarship

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Enda Hayes
Professor in Air Quality and Carbon Management

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Dr Jo Barnes
Associate Professor of Clean Air


Ecosystem services provide a framework for integrated assessment of the societal benefits provided by air, the largest ecosystem on the planet, which has been substantially overlooked in former management frameworks. Many attributes of air are 'common' in nature, use of the air or emissions into it providing private benefits with associated costs incurred by broader sectors of humanity. Though poorly captured by legal definitions, various benefits provided by air have been addressed by both common and statute law in the UK. There is a need to evolve the legal framework to afford a more integrated form of protection, though some of the essential building blocks for such protection are already established. Air has been found to provide a wide range of ecosystem services, many of which lie outside of contemporary markets. Case studies including the UK Air Quality Management framework, unintended impacts on the climate from wastewater treatment, the Montreal Protocol and control of fine airborne particulates highlight how an ecosystem approach could add far-sighted insight into development of policy and practice, averting many blind alleys of investment and delivering more multi-functional benefits. From this assessment, it is clear that the medium of air and the wider atmosphere have been substantially overlooked in terms of the benefits that they provide to society, but also their vulnerability to a range of pressures. Research gaps include the place of air in legal frameworks, legal mechanisms to protect this common property from damage, mechanisms to internalise the various values of services provided by air into markets, gap analysis in the policy environment, the means by which current management tools can be expanded to take a systemic approach, and practical tools development to support these innovations. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.


Longhurst, J. W., Hayes, E. T., Staddon, C., Appleby, T., Pontin, B., Everard, M., …Longhurst, J. (2013). Air as a common good. Environmental Science and Policy, 33, 354-368.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Nov 1, 2013
Journal Environmental Science and Policy
Print ISSN 1462-9011
Electronic ISSN 1873-6416
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Pages 354-368
Keywords air, ecosystem services, ecosystem approach, air quality,
climate regulation, legal
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