Institutional Change for Sustainable Development

Institutional Change for Sustainable Development

Robin Connor and Stephen Dovers

Institutional Change for Sustainable Development presents a flexible, accessible, yet robust conceptual framework for comprehending institutional dimensions of sustainability, emphasising the complexity of institutional systems, and highlighting the interdependence between policy learning and institutional change. This framework is applied and developed through the analysis of five significant arenas of institutional and policy change: environmental policy in the EU; New Zealand’s landmark Resource Management Act; strategic environmental assessment; emerging National Councils for Sustainable Development; and transformative property rights instruments. From these explorations, key principles for institutional change are identified, including the institutional accommodation of a sustainability discourse, the interdependence of normative and institutional change; reiteration and learning; integration in policy and practice; subsidiarity; and legal change.

Chapter 3: Environmental Policy in the European Union

Robin Connor and Stephen Dovers

Subjects: economics and finance, institutional economics, environment, ecological economics


INTRODUCTION This case study is more substantive and broader than some subsequent ones investigated in this book. The justification for this is that Europe doubtless represents the most advanced, complex and sustained example of integrated policy and institutional development between nations in the history of modern government, in the environmental and other domains. Europe has in many ways provided the lead in the conceptualization and operationalization of sustainable development, whether or not actual achievements are judged as sufficient. As such it deserves close attention and also serves to raise more specific themes that are developed further in the other cases and the synthesis in Chapter 8. The environmental policy of the European Union (EU) provides a rich example of a federalist institutional system1 from which to draw lessons for other jurisdictions in resource and environmental policy and in the pursuit of sustainable development more broadly. The EU is in fact an international regime, with several member states themselves being federated. The EU federalist context encompasses not only sovereign nations but, moreover, different languages and legal traditions. This deepens system complexity but yields more points of entry and opportunities to learn, and a number of levels of linkages with other, comparable contexts. This complexity, including institutional, political and historical complexity, makes any attempt at comprehensive coverage well beyond the scope of this study. Here we therefore sample the field of relevant topics and available material and identify aspects of the institutional system and change processes that are generally instructive. Of particular...

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