Governance, Democracy and Sustainable Development

Governance, Democracy and Sustainable Development

Moving Beyond the Impasse

Edited by James Meadowcroft, Oluf Langhelle and Audun Ruud

The contributors explore the difficulties developed countries are experiencing in coming to terms with environmental limits and the resultant challenges to the democratic polity. They engage with different dimensions of the governance challenge including norms, public attitudes, citizen engagement, political conflict, policy design, and implementation, and with a range of environmental problems such as climate change, biodiversity/nature protection, and water management. The book concludes with an essay by William Lafferty that explores the flawed character of the contemporary democratic polity and offers his reflections on possible pathways to reform.

Chapter 1: Governance, democracy and sustainable development: moving beyond the impasse

James Meadowcroft, Oluf Langhelle and Audun Ruud

Subjects: environment, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, public policy, regulation and governance


This volume is concerned with governance of the environment and sustainable development. It considers progress made in addressing environmental problems and explores the difficulties developed countries have experienced in turning more decisively towards sustainability. The individual chapters discuss various dimensions of the governance challenge (political conflicts, policy design, implementation, norms, public attitudes, citizen engagement, steering and measurement, and so on) in relation to a range of environmental problems (climate change, biodiversity/nature protection, water management). Some contributions deal with specific jurisdictions while others have a comparative focus or treat more general issues. But each chapter also says something about the way contemporary democratic systems are coping with the critical challenge of sustainable development. Notions of sustainability or sustainable development have been central to the evolution of the environmental policy domain in recent decades. Subject to countless definitional wrangles, and continuing argument over their practical implications, these ideas nevertheless point to a critical problem confronting contemporary societies: how to meet continuing societal needs while avoiding damage to local and global ecosystems that could undermine the environmental foundations of long-term welfare. To put it another way, they problematize the current development trajectory: reconsidering the traditional trade-offs between social welfare, economy and environmental protection, and asking us to think about where society is headed, what constitutes genuine social progress, and what sort of world we want to live in.

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