- The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law series
Edited by Paul Martin and Amanda Kennedy
Chapter 3: Putting the train of environmental protection on track: Nova Scotia’s experiment in using legislation to strengthen environmental governance
In a 2008 article entitled ‘A Train Without Tracks’, Annecoos Wiersema argues that new governance approaches to environmental challenges lack substantive direction. New governance approaches have focused on process and on engaging non-state actors in the design and implementation of responses to the environmental challenges we face. There are many good reasons to engage non-state actors through effective processes, including: the complexity of the challenges; the social license that is associated with transparency and public engagement in decision-making; the role that collaboration with non-state actors can play in compensating for limited government resources and expertise; and the improved compliance that is expected with laws and broader policies that are developed through collaborative processes. Wiersema, however, argues that this shift of focus from substance to process has come at a price. Using the image of a train without tracks, Wiersema makes the point that a focus on process, without clear environmental goals against which the results of these process-oriented approaches to governance can be measured, risks compromising the very purpose of environmental governance. Governance, at best, becomes a consensus building process among non-state actors with a diverse range of interests. At its worst, the process moves environmental protection toward the lowest common denominator. It can even become a rationale for government inaction, and a tool for those resistant to effective environmental regulation. The definition and achievement of environmental objectives is left too much to the interests, capacity and commitment of self-interested non-state participants.
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