Skip main navigation

What is Command and Control?

How do Command and Control policies deal with climate change?
© Adam Smith Centre

Command and Control is one of the many approaches used in public policy. It comprises of rules and legislation imposed by governments, and is often backed up by the threat of coercion, fines or state penalties.

Such regulations may either be ‘negative’, sanctioning some form of behavior, such as pollution, or may be ‘positive’, mandating certain actions, such as installing clean air filters.

Command-and-control regulation has a long history, and is said to be heavily featured in the USA. In 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was created to oversee all environmental laws. In the same year, the Clean Air Act was enacted to address air pollution. Just two years later, in 1972, Congress passed and the president signed the far-reaching Clean Water Act. These command-and-control environmental laws, and their amendments and updates, is said to have contributed to a cleaner natural environment in the USA.

In the UK, command and control regulations have also been used, covering areas such as pollution, wildlife conservation, resource conservation and climate change. Significantly, the 2008 Climate Change Act. It had set out emissions targets to fulfill and was at the time the first global legally binding climate change mitigation target set by a country. The Act committed the UK to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

Recently, the UK now aims to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

© Adam Smith Centre
This article is from the free online

Climate Change and Public Policy

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education