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Public Policy

Gavel on book

Carefully crafted and robust public policy is crucial to fulfilling IDA’s mission to protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies. IDA is involved in a variety of efforts to influence the decisions of various lawmaking and oversight bodies worldwide to formulate, adopt, implement, evaluate or change public policies on outdoor lighting. We partner with various government entities to support policy priorities that protect night skies and promote quality outdoor lighting.

Night Skies and Public Policy Implications

  • Energy: Policies that promote dark skies are tied directly to reducing the consumption of energy by promoting efficient outdoor lighting technologies. These policies not only control the types of outdoor lighting that may be installed by various public and private entities, but also determine appropriate lighting levels and warranting conditions (whether lights may be installed in certain areas and/or operated during particular hours of day).
  • Ecology: Wildlife is all around us, whether we live in urban or rural settings. Choices made by various jurisdictions about outdoor lighting impact all species and are especially important for locations in or near sensitive habitats. Bad lighting policies can have lethal consequences for wildlife, but good policies can actually help restore healthy urban ecosystems.
  • Human Health: The preponderance of available scientific evidence suggests that exposure to artificial light at night presents significant risks to human health [link to Health]. Jurisdictions can limit residents’ exposure to artificial light during their outdoor nighttime activities while providing adequate light levels to ensure safety and security.
  • Public Safety: Poorly designed and/or installed outdoor lighting is a known hazard to motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians in transit at night. The same policies that keep nighttime skies dark reduce glare and put the right amount of light in the right place and at the right time to ensure the safety of all.
  • Crime: The notion that the preservation of dark skies requires turning lights off and compromising security is a myth. Over-lighting outdoor spaces at night in the belief that lighting deters crime can actually create favorable conditions for crimes of opportunity. Good policies that protect dark skies enhance security by reducing glare, attenuating harsh lighting that creates shadows, and retaining the element of surprise through the use of adaptive lighting controls.

What IDA is Doing

  • Leading efforts to set the policy agenda for dark skies around the world
  • Providing support and technical assistance to policymakers considering enacting new regulations on outdoor lighting or amending existing regulations
  • Informing policymakers about the most effective, efficient and legally-robust ways to regulate outdoor lighting
  • Promoting policies based on sound scientific research
  • Offering model outdoor lighting policies appropriate for both local and regional levels
  • Tracking policy developments to identify opportunities for IDA to become involved at the earliest stages of policy formulation
  • Coordinating IDA member calls to action to support or oppose specific policies under consideration in their jurisdictions

To learn about IDA’s 2015 public policy work, see our summary from the IDA 2015 Annual Report.