Governance for Sustainable Development
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Governance for Sustainable Development

The Challenge of Adapting Form to Function

Edited by William M. Lafferty

This book is an original study of the challenge of implementing sustainable development in Western democracies. It highlights the obstacles which sustainable development presents for strategic governance and critically examines how these problems can best be overcome in a variety of different political contexts.
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Chapter 3: Adapting Form to Function? From Economic to Sustainable Development Governance in the European Union

Elizabeth Bomberg


3. Adapting form to function?: from economic to sustainable development governance in the European Union Elizabeth Bomberg* The European Union (EU) is both commended as a leading advocate of sustainable development and condemned for its failure to deliver on its commitments and promises. Both views could draw on substantial empirical evidence. The EU’s tremendously complex structures and processes make conclusive or straightforward assessments difficult. Nonetheless, a close examination of the EU’s engagement with sustainable development is worth the effort. First, the EU’s actions will shape fundamentally the pace and form of sustainable development implementation at the European and global level. The EU’s consumption of goods and emissions of harmful pollutants is second only to the US. Its share of world trade in goods and services is over 20 per cent. It is the largest trader with, and donor to, developing countries. More generally, the EU’s unique governance structure and operation (or, its ‘form and function’) offer insights into what structures, processes and mechanisms might hinder the implementation of sustainable development goals, and which may facilitate it. This latter dimension is the primary focus of the present chapter. It identifies what is particular and unique about the EU’s engagement with sustainable development, and what lessons can be drawn from that engagement. The preceding chapters have outlined what makes implementation of sustainable development different from, and more demanding than, the implementation of other policy areas. These include the holistic and interdependent character of sustainable development; its explicitly normative dimension; its ‘outside-in’ formulation;...

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