The beginning of a new food movement in Essen

Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation

By Annelie Sieveking

From the 10th to the 12th of November 2017, over 100 people from more than 40 cities came together in Essen, Germany to exchange ideas and experiences about food policy councils (FPCs, in German: Ernährungsräte). This was the first networking congress of recently created food policy councils and initiatives planning to do so in the near future in German-speaking countries and regions (Austria, Germany, South Tirol and Switzerland).

FPCs bring together diverse actors within the food system; they are often initiated by civil society and they try to shape food policies at different levels. As FPCs have been in existence in other countries for several decades, the congress organizers invited international guests from the United States, Canada, Brazil and the United Kingdom to learn from their experiences. In Germany, FPCs are a fairly new phenomenon with the first ones founded in Cologne and Berlin…

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New book: Evidence for causal mechanisms linking participation with environmental governance outcomes

By Jens Newig

In the EDGE project, we have been researching intensively the link between participation in decision-making and environmental governance outcomes. Our new book, lead-edited by Elisa Kochskämper, examines these links through eight qualitative case studies. We employ a causal-mechanism approach, which helps us identify the precise mechanisms through which participatory governance forms lead (or don’t lead) to improved environmental governance outcomes. So although our approach is highly qualitative in nature, we use it to rigorously trace causal hypotheses.

Our empirical field of study is participatory processes that were set up to implement the European Water Framework Directive in Germany, Spain, and the UK. The Directive mandates participatory river basin management planning across the European Union, with the expectation (among European policymakers and the European Commission) that participation will deliver better policy outputs and implementation.

Here are two examples of how our approach works.

The first shows how broad participation in Cantabria (Spain) does generate social learning, empowerment and acceptance by participants – even though the results of the participatory process were ultimately ignored by the authorities and not taken up in further planning (see figure below). However, the fact that the collected measures were not actually incorporated into the river basin management plan, and had not been implemented, did not diminish participants’ satisfaction with the process. The environmental NGO representative put it as follows (page 77 in the book):

Although I don’t know whether they recognised our proposals for the final measures, I think the participatory process was very good per se. […] I think this was an activity that left everyone very satisfied for the mere fact of participating […]. That we were sitting face-to-face with different officials and that we could give our opinion in public, and being taken seriously from the beginning (MC:ENGO).

Cantabria
Participatory planning process in the Miera and Campiazo basins. Dashed lines indicate no clear connection. Crossed out lines indicate a disconnect

The second example is a local participatory forum in Schleswig-Holstein (Germany). This case is revealing regarding the hypothesized mechanism that increased representation of environmental concerns in a decision-making process either: (a) fosters environmental advocacy, impacting positively on the environmental quality of the output; or – quite the contrary – (b) weakens the position of environmental groups vis-à-vis other actors, impacting negatively on the environmental quality of the output. The case shows how both sub-mechanisms can be found within one single case: On the one hand, environmental NGOs were particularly active in addressing river connectivity, and this was clearly reflected in the agreed list of actions, thus supporting (a). On the other hand, the pressing issue of nutrient pollution from agriculture was left out of discussions and therefore not addressed in the output. A likely explanation lies in the trustful setting that developed over several years of on-going interaction in the working group. In this setting, environmental interests, too, went along in the general spirit of proposing feasible and readily implementable measures, leaving aside the more conflictive – but nonetheless highly pressing – issue of agricultural nutrient pollution. We conclude, therefore, that ENGOs have been co-opted to a certain degree, which supports (b).

The comprehensive structured comparative approach has produced new insights into the link between participation and environmental outputs and impacts. The overall picture is telling: we observed increasing quality of policy outputs with increasing ‘intensity’ of participation. However, the details are more nuanced, as the two above examples may suggest. Ultimately, we observed a trade-off between ambitious environmental planning and actual implementability of measures. Our analysis revealed that processes either produced measures of a high environmental standard, addressing the main water problems, but that were overly ambitious and not implementable, or they produced feasible measures that were subsequently implemented, but were generally of a lower environmental standard. This hints to important questions of environmental policy implementation that go beyond claims of participation.

Reference

Kochskämper, Elisa; Challies, Edward; Jager, Nicolas W.; Newig, Jens (eds.) (2018): Participation for Effective Environmental Governance: Evidence from European Water Framework Directive Implementation. Earthscan Studies in Water Resource Management series. London: Earthscan / Routledge.

 

Causal mechanisms analysis – a potential way to bridge the divide between systemic and place-based research

Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation

By Nicolas W. Jager

In the Leverage Points project, as is often the case in empirical research and especially in sustainability sciences, we are caught between a focus on place-based research and the aspiration to generate insights which may be valid and relevant for a wider scope. One way to moderate this tension and to arrive at valid, context-related findings that may also have a wider scope is through utilizing causal mechanisms as focal points for analysis.

Discussions about the role and possibilities of a causal mechanisms perspective are prominent in social science research, and there exist numerous definitions (see e.g. Hedström and Ylikoski 2010 for an overview). A causal mechanism can be understood as “a continuous and contiguous chain of causal or intentional links between the explanans and the explanandum” (Elster 1989). As such, a close look at the processes at work in a given (place-based) case may be…

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New PhD position on governance and policy analysis in globally telecoupled systems

We are now seeking to fill a 100% PhD position on “Governance institutions for sustainability in globally telecoupled systems” within the Marie-Skłodowska-Curie ETN Graduate School ‘COUPLED’, starting 1 July 2018 for a duration of 36 months.

Topic: Globally telecoupled systems such as commodity chains, long-range pollution or distant policy-driven effects present complex new challenges for sustainability governance. These are often beyond the capabilities of individual states and even multilateral institutions to regulate. At the same time, the policy and governance interventions of governments and other actors themselves often have a range of unforeseen consequences and knock-on effects. Taking European Union (EU) environmental policy as its primary vantage point, this research will: (1) identify key institutions, networks of actors and instruments deployed to govern for sustainability in specific case studies of telecoupled systems (e.g. global trade and supply chains and networks), and (2) assess their impacts with particular attention to so-called ‘policy-driven displacement’ effects, policy spillovers and feed-backs (e.g. increased deforestation resulting from EU biofuels policy). On the basis of this analysis, the research will (3) identify governance levers for effective intervention at multiple levels (from multilateral to local) and among different actors (e.g. governmental, private sector, civil society) to address policy-driven displacement effects.

In carrying out this work, the ESR will: (1) Conduct interviews and documentary research to chart networks and key actors and structures associated with EU efforts to govern for sustainability in telecoupled systems (focusing on certain specific cases such as agricultural commodity chains or raw resource flows); (2) analyse and assess the effectiveness (success factors and barriers, social and environmental impacts) of different governance arrangements and their unintended policy-driven displacement effects; and (3) propose potential policy and governance interventions for increased sustainability in telecoupled systems. The ESR will be jointly supervised by Prof. Jens Newig, Dr. Edward Challies and Prof. Patrick Meyfroidt (Earth and Life Institute, Catholic University of Leuven). Potential secondment placements include the German Federal Environmental Ministry in Berlin (Germany) and the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium).

Location: Leuphana University Lüneburg is a young university, focusing on sustainability, cultural and political science, education, and management and entrepreneurship, and has repeatedly been awarded for innovation. The Research Group on Governance, Participation and Sustainability, led by Prof. Newig, is affiliated both with Leuphana’s Faculty of Sustainability and with its Centre for the Study of Democracy. A multidisciplinary group of senior and early-career social scientists, it focuses on addressing the big challenges of governance in the context of environmental and sustainability politics.

We seek: a candidate with an above-average MSc (or equivalent degree) in Political Science, Human Geography, Sustainability Science or cognate discipline. We expect a strong interest in environmental policy and governance. Excellent written and spoken English is essential, and experience with both qualitative and quantitative methods (e.g. Social Network Analysis) would be advantageous.

Mobility Rule: Please note that at the time of recruitment, candidates must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Germany for more than 12 months in the last 3 years (in accordance to the funding programme of the ETN). Leuphana University Lüneburg is an equal opportunity employer committed to fostering heterogeneity among its staff. Applications by qualified individuals are strongly encouraged. Disabled applicants with equal qualifications will be given priority consideration.

Contact: Prof. Dr Jens Newig; e-mail: newig@uni.leuphana.de.

Applications including a letter of motivation, full CV, a draft proposal, relevant certificates/transcripts, and contact details for two references shall be submitted via the project website http://coupled-itn.eu/.

Application deadline: 24 November 2017.

Now published: Disentangling the causal mechanisms that link participation and collaboration to environmental outcomes

By Jens Newig

Many agree that participation and collaboration is relevant, if not indispensable, for environmentally sustainable governance outcomes. Others maintain that public government is best equipped to effectively address environmental problems. In our new paper from the ‘EDGE’ project we try to move the debate forward by looking precisely at the causal mechanisms through which participatory and collaborative forms of governance may improve (or deteriorate) environmental outcomes of public decision-making processes.

The paper is rather analytical in that we disentangle:

  1. different dimensions of participation: Who participates? What decision-making power is delegated to participants? How do participants communicate and interact?
  2. different dimensions of outcomes: Outputs on paper (plans, agreements, policies, etc.) versus the support of outputs and their actual implementation
  3. the different mechanisms through which participation and collaboration likely work towards (or against) environmental outcomes,
  4. different contextual factors such as the capacity of stakeholders, problem complexity or the degree of conflict (we call these ‘conditioning variables’).

This analytical ‘disentangling’, we believe, helps us to identify trade-offs: For example, a collaborative process involving local resource users may lead to a conservation plan with less environmental aspiration as envisaged by a nature-protection agency (because local users do not strictly favour conservation). But at the same time, this plan may be more accepted by local communities and better implementable.

Mechanisms

This figure shows an overview of the causal mechanisms we identified, organised in five thematic clusters. Plus signs (+) denote reinforcing relationships, minus signs (–) denote weakening relationships. For example, the top left arrow combines mechanisms M I.1a (positive influence of “opening up” on representation of environmental concerns) and M I.1b (negative influence).

We hope that this framework of causal mechanisms will futher stimulate debate on the functions of participation, and ultimately be useful for guiding empirical research. To this end, we will draw on this framework to organise our empirical findings from the EDGE case survey meta analysis.

You can find the paper, which is published Open Access in the Policy Studies Journal (early view), here:

Newig, J. / Challies, E. / Jager, N.W. / Kochskaemper, E. / Adzersen, A. (2017). The Environmental Performance of Participatory and Collaborative Governance: A Framework of Causal Mechanisms. Policy Studies Journal (early view).

A blessing in disguise? Why Trump’s pull-out of the Paris Agreement may open up a window of opportunity

By Pim Derwort

Following his campaign promise and a period of intense speculation, on Thursday June 1, the President of the United States announced his intention to withdraw from the 2015 Climate Accord previously ratified by his predecessor, Barack Obama, claiming it undermines U.S. competitiveness and jobs, and would have a negligible impact on the world’s climate. Inevitably, the series of events were quickly compared to another defining moment in history, when, in 1997, the newly instated United States Government of George W. Bush failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol negotiated under the Clinton-Gore presidency.

World leaders were quick to condemn the unilateral decision, with the Secretary General of the United Nations calling it a “major disappointment for global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote global security”, and the leaders of France, Germany and Italy almost immediate issuing a joint statement reaffirming their strong commitment to implement the agreement.

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement appears to be the latest in a string of failures to protect the (global) environment, including executive orders to roll back the Clean Water Rule (giving the federal government authority to limit pollution in major bodies of water, rivers, streams, and wetlands) and review the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, ending restrictions on coal power plants. Having installed Scott Pruitt, a known climate-sceptic as the head of the EPA, President Trump – famously calling climate change a hoax “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive – proposed slashing the agency’s budget by 31 per cent (or $2.6 billion) and to get rid of the EPA “in almost every form”.

However, while the U.S. withdrawal will almost certainly affect the effectiveness and realisation of the goals of the Paris Agreement, all may not be doom and gloom. Contrary to popular opinion, I would argue that this latest decision may actually hold an important silver lining, in that it may open up a ‘window of opportunity’.

First of all, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement, and particularly the period of uncertainty leading up to it, has resulted in regular attention for environmental regulation, in a news cycle that so often appears dominated by important issues such as possible Russian meddling in the elections of foreign governments, the refugee crisis, and international terrorism. Under the motto that ‘even bad press is good publicity’, it can be argued that the constant attack on environmental regulation means that the topic remains well and truly on the agenda and in the public eye. The official decision, rather than continued speculation, enables world leaders, business, citizens and the academic community to provide a targeted response. From a political perspective, Trump’s latest action opens up opportunities for other actors who are willing to take environmental action, allowing them to form alternative coalitions and advance changes previously blocked by the U.S. (Grossman, 2015, Saurugger and Terpan, 2016). On a structural level, the disappearance of existing structures and institutions (deinstitutionalisation) may thus be perceived as an opportunity to break with existing patterns of inertia and lock-ins, an important precondition for the development of new alternatives (Boin et al., 2008).

Initial evidence suggests that, rather than weaken the resolve of the international community, Trump’s withdrawal has strengthened the resolve of China and the European Union in particular who, despite being unable to produce a joint statement, have reiterated their intention to accelerate joint efforts to reduce global carbon emissions. Leaders of some of the biggest and most influential technology companies, including Google, Facebook, and Amazon have already expressed their continued support for the Paris Agreement and the effort against climate change. Even Trump’s own Secretary of State, and former head of the oil-giant ExxonMobil, signed an international declaration highlighting the importance of the Agreement. Furthermore, the Democratic Governor of California, Jerry Brown has announced a pact with the governors of Washington and New York to uphold the Agreement even without federal support, as did the mayors of 71 small and large American cities from blue and red states – including cities like Los Angelos, New York, Chicago, Washington and Austin, in an open letter to then president-elect.

There may be a long way, but ultimately, the formal decision may thus backfire on Trump, creating the exact opposite of what he intended – with citizens, business and federal governments increasing their climate efforts, leaving the White House out in the cold.

Pim Derwort is a PhD-student in the Leverage Points project and a member of the research group ‘Governance, Participation and Sustainability’ at Leuphana University. His current research focuses on the productive functions of institutional failure and decline.

References
BOIN, A., MCCONNELL, A. & ‘T HART, P. 2008. Governing after Crisis. The Politics of Investigation, Accountability and Learning, Cambridge, New York, Cambridge University Press.
GROSSMAN, P. Z. 2015. Energy shocks, crises and the policy process: A review of theory and application. Energy Policy, 77, 56-69.
SAURUGGER, S. & TERPAN, F. 2016. Do crises lead to policy change? The multiple streams framework and the European Union’s economic governance instruments. Policy Sciences, 49, 35-53.