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Governance in the EU on the impacts of growth on ecology

During 1860-1960  European industrial society developed at rapid pace without giving much consideration to ecological consequences.  As a result of these human activities and industrial process natural environment was greatly affected. Although these damages had been going for centuries but it was not until 1970s that it took on alarming levels due to the following reasons

  • Very rapid economic growth
  • Reckless use of new production techniques
  • Development of new products mainly from oil

Due to the geography of Europe polluted water and polluted air freely move across the borders of different states, well even before the opening of borders among the countries. This cross border environmental degradation cause immense concern with in the Europe states about their neighbor activities. For example every large lake or water entity is at least shared by two or more states and these lakes, water courses and seas provide waste dumping ground for several countries. Similarly every effort of a single country for the preservation of nature will be futile if the neighboring country showed no concerns. Along with the phenomena of joined borders, rapid economic growth, industrialization and urbanization argued in favor of common action to protect the environment (Moussis, 2011).

As mentioned above the geography of Europe made environmental issue a common problem to all the states. Thus common problem required a common solutions .No  country or state could hope to achieve its economic growth goals and environmental goals together. For example if any state to country try to regulate its industrial sector by forcing them to adapt the environmental policies of their own would be significantly compromising their abilities to compete with neighbor industrial sectors. Not only this but individual environmental policies can also hamper the free movement of goods and services. Thus to avoid these issues, providing fair chance to every business and to improve quality of life a common policy become the need of time.

In 1972 the European Economic Commission or EEC heads of state began to realize that environmental issues were trans boundary issues and  that the policies and actions of one state could harm its neighbors. With this conclusion the representative of states met in Paris to initiate an common environmental set of policies (Fischer, 2009). These are named as “Environmental Action Programs.” With each of one lasted for period of three to five years. Currently Eu is working on the seventh action  plan (2020).  Over certain areas EU has exclusive competence while  there are some where EU can legislate but member states can exceed according to their local requirements, Environmental policies is among it. Although Environmental policies fall under share competence but it is still considered the most progressive environmental policies of any state in the world (Jordan, 1999).

Despite the increasing efforts given to the policy making area at Eu level, environmental policies has  faced some serious hardship at implementation among the member states. As mentioned above that most of the environmental legislation were passed as directives thus it is the task of the states to convert those directives into specific laws. Due to this reason each and every state take this directive differently. Research shows that even some stated did not even bother to tell the commission what they are doing to convert directives into laws (Jordan, 1999).

Along with the implementation Gap discussed above there was also the Policy integration gap at member states level. Idea to integrate environmental policies in all other EU policies was established by article 130R(2) in SEA in the mid-1980s (Jorgensen, 2012).  Developments have shown that instead on making new policies EU is now more toward the integration of the existing environmental policies into other EU policies thus making them “Green”(Bache, Stephen, & Simon, 2011). But this method also faces problem of integration gap, which can be explain due to intragovernmentalist approach.  In this approach central governments remain the most powerful actors in the EU and decision results from bargaining among these government while the EU institutions are of the limited significance. Thus EU institutions are unable to implement decisions which are not acceptable to central governments (Trnski, 2009).

This approach which is also known as mandate participatory planning approach (MPP) is now becoming the part of Eu successful environmental policies. It is the result of evolution  of technical and procedural standards over the past decades. Main idea of this approach is the “explicit formulation of certain plans or programs on a national, subnational and even cross national level” (Newig & Koontz, 2014).

As a novel and successful policy approach, MPP shares parts of policy implementation, multiple level governance and participatory governance.

Multiple level governance

It describes as a “system of continuous negotiation among governments at several levels – supranational, national, regional and local”(Marks, 1993). According to this governance system, central government remain important to policy making but they cannot monopolized the decision making process. Policy making role is divided into among different players at European, national and subnational level. Before discussing the role of MLG it is important to understand its key features

  • It is considered as political game
  • It is complex nonhierarchical kind of relationships between several institute at several levels
  • It is governance rather than government
  • It represents a negotiated order as compare to order defined by legal formal framework

According to Hooghe and Gary ( 2008) explain this process as “dispersion of authority away from central government- upward to the supranatural level, downwards to subnational level and side ways to public private network”. Thus the power is dispersed in two ways upward/downward or vertical and sideways or horizontal.

In term of Environmental policy integration through multiple level governance both vertical and horizontal policy integration approach are of vital importance. In 2001 the EU council adopted the concept of sustainable development, which provide the vision of combining a dynamic economy with social cohesion and high environmental standards. Both sustainable development and environmental policy integration are concerned with horizontal policy integration. EPI ask for the environmental policy objectives in all stages of policy making in non-environment policies (Lafferty, 2002) and is overlapped with sustainable development. After 1990s sustainable development was redefined as balancing of the social, economic and environmental dimension instead of prioritizing environmental issues. Thus horizontal policy integration in this context become the tool for balancing between these dimensions by minimizing the tradeoffs and maximize synergism (Steurer & Martinuzzi, 2007).  With the increase of complexities in environmental issues such as involvement of more pollutants, global climate change and more defragmentation in governmental institute (New governance) made it difficult to successfully implement on horizontal policy integration. Also argued that EPI or SD needs a government context to be integrated into and from this view and other literature it is evident that EPI is mainly about the vertical policy integration (Andrew & Lenschow, 2008).

For the above mentioned MPP approach both horizontal and vertical interactions are required. For example in case of water policy higher level government are engaged in discussing large scale issues while lower levels of govt. may be tasked with developing and implementing solution with the greater details, solving small level problems with the help of non-state stack holders (Commission, 2003)(Benson & Jordan, 2010)(Hardy & Koontz, 2008). Thus small level institute inform to high level government and high level government used low level institutes to implement.

Participatory Governance

Another important aspect of MPP and also to successfully implement of environmental policy is the participatory approach of governance. According to Schmitter (2003) Eu defined participatory governance as “ the regular and guaranteed presence when making binding decision of representatives of those collectivities that  will be affected by the policy adopted”.  Researchers also agreed on this participatory approach. According to them addition of more and more heterogeneous  stakeholders in ‘communities’ is a desirable practice for sustainable development. Environmental policies based on this approach correspond to the real implementation of real vision of transformation in all pillars of sustainable development i.e economic, social and ecological (Faucheux, 1997).

Reason to justify this approach is the complex characteristics of environmental issues. Environmental issues are complex, there are conflict of interest among different actors, there is dynamic uncertainty, damage in most of the cases can be irreversible, they are not only individual but trans boundary or neighbors issues as well thus responsibilities are diffused, difficult to achieve clear division between macro and micro problems, large in scale, long term commitment is required. In summary the solution for these kind of complexities lies in building of dynamic capacity building, focus on innovations, allowing of integration of new information and research as it become available and also involving of different values and judgments from various communities and actors of different backgrounds and levels.

Participatory approach type of governance can guaranteed a higher degree of legitimacy as wider range of communities are involved in it. A participatory approach allows pooling of information and also permits progressive integration of new information Different actors can also answer the dynamic issue of environmental problems. They can join the ever evolving process and give feedbacks during the step of implementation, this feedback combined with flow of new information can help improve the adjustment phase. All this participation and information’s from wide range of actors will lead to different values, logics and judgments and consensus might not be possible. There can be disputes due to conflict of interest among actors and distribution of power. Thus means of resolving these dispute through negotiations are will also be required. According to an agreement on a course of action might still be reachable even when values remain conflicting (Dryzek, 1990).

In the view of citizen participations , the EU singed the 1998 Aarhus Convention on access to information , Access to Justice in Environmental Matters and Public Participation in Decision –making (Newig & Koontz, 2014). While in 2001 the commission also issued a white paper showing participation as the second of five governance principles.

European union is pursuing to convert to a green economy approach. An approach which results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risk and ecological scarcities. Green economy can refer to sectors

Andrew, J. J., & Lenschow, A. (Eds.). (2008).  ’Innovation in environmental Policy? Integrating the Environment for Sustainability. Edward Elgar Pub.

Bache, I., Stephen, G., & Simon, B. (2011). Politics in the European Union (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press.

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Jorgensen, J. (2012). Explaining the Lacking Success of EU Environmental Policy.

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Marks, G. (1993). Structural policy and multi-level governance in the EC. In A. Cafruny & G. Rosenthal (Eds.), State of European community (2nd ed.). Boulder Colorado: Longman.

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Newig, J., & Koontz, T. (2014). Multi-level governance, policy implementation and participation: the EU’s mandated participatory planning approach to implementing environmental policy. Journal of European Public Policy, 21(2).

Schmitter, P. (2003). Participation in governance arrangements: is there any reason to expect it will achieve “sustainable and innovative policies in a multi-level context”? In J. Gorte & B. Gbikpi (Eds.), Participatory Governance. Political and Societal Implications. Leske+Budrich.

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