New Horizons in Environmental Economics series
Edited by Albert Breton, Giorgio Brosio, Silvana Dalmazzone and Giovanna Garrone
Chapter 14: France: Forces Shaping Centralization and Decentralization in Environmental Policymaking
* Albert Breton and Pierre Salmon 1. INTRODUCTION Among the many decision-makers who play a role in France’s environmental governance, some are located at the central, some at the regional, municipal and other subnational levels of government. The present balance between centralization and decentralization is the result of permanent structural features of the French governmental system on the one hand, and of recent developments both in that system and in environmental concerns and priorities on the other. Several structural features combine to enable the central government to adapt and tailor its policies to local needs and conditions. The policies of central governments are never compelled to be uniform as is sometimes asserted (Tocqueville, 1835/1969: 161; Oates, 1972: Chapter 2), but the capacity to adapt to spatial heterogeneity is particularly strong in the case of France for reasons that we examine. This is a general statement, applicable in varying degrees across all policy areas, but it is particularly pertinent to environmental policies. We look into the usefulness of that capacity and into the various forms that it can take. We argue that the recent developments mentioned above tend to profoundly alter the setting in which the central government’s capacity to adapt to local circumstances takes place. One important change is the substantial decentralization that took place in France in the early 1980s. The motive behind the change had little to do with the environment (Salmon, 2000). Decentralization nonetheless aﬀects environmental policymaking. By enhancing the responsibilities, authority, and ambitions of subcentral governments,...
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