Handbook on Multi-level Governance
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Handbook on Multi-level Governance

Edited by Henrik Enderlein, Sonja Wälti and Michael Zürn

Scholarship of multi-level governance has developed into one of the most innovative themes of research in political science and public policy. This accessible Handbook presents a thorough review of the wide-ranging literature, encompassing various theoretical and conceptual approaches to multi-level governance and their application to policy-making in domestic, regional and global contexts.
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Chapter 27: Multi-level Environmental Governance

Sonia Wälti


Sonja Wälti 27.1 INTRODUCTION The expansion and paradigm shifts in the development of today’s environmental policies have been intrinsically linked to the development of multi-level governance arrangements. The early regulatory approaches to environmental degradation of the 1960s and 1970s have coincided with centralizing tendencies, in the USA earlier than in other contexts. The 1980s increasing recognition of the limits of central government again coincided with increasing trust in and responsibilities for subnational levels of government. Especially in federal countries, some environmental responsibilities were handed back to subnational governments. Then the mounting distrust of the 1990s in central steering, and in governmental steering altogether, brought about decentralized, voluntary and ‘softer’ environmental policy instruments. The most recent decade, finally, may well become known for the globalization of environmental problems and the internationalization of environmental policies, thus mirroring the study of multi-level governance’s claim to look beyond the nation-state. Nowhere does environmental policy expansion coincide as closely with the development of multi-level governance arrangements as in the European Union (EU), where legislative activity in environmental matters peaked between 1987 and 1993 (McCormick 2001, pp. 55–61), just prior to the emergence of research on multi-level governance in the early 1990s. While a claim that multi-level governance emerged due to the specific demands of environmental policies would be hard to verify, there are some plausible links. Most importantly, the nature of environmental problems inevitably brings multiple levels of government into play. Problems are often felt locally while solutions are inherently national due to...

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