The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology
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The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology

Edited by Michael R. Redclift and Graham Woodgate

The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology is a major interdisciplinary reference work on the developing field of environmental sociology. It consists of over 30 specially commissioned essays by leading scholars from around the world. These original essays examine a wide range of environmental issues in the developed and developing world as well as formerly centrally planned countries to present a truly international perspective. Together they analyse theory and concepts, philosophical and empirical issues as well as offering practical policy advice.
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Chapter 24: Between commitment and implementation: tensions in sustainable development policy of the European Union

Susan Baker


Susan Baker INTRODUCTION This chapter examines sustainable development policy within the European Union (EU) and, in particular, focuses attention on the goals and aspirations of the Commission of the European Communities (the Commission). The EU is legally committed to the promotion of sustainable development and has publicly declared its intention to see that commitment translated into successful implementation (CEC, 1991). While recognizing that, in the EU, member-states play a crucial role in shaping sustainable development implementation, this chapter will focus on the EU as a whole. This perspective is justified by the increasingly important role that the EU now plays in shaping environmental management strategies, not only at the international level, but increasingly also at the member-state and subnational levels. The first section of the chapter explores the notion that sustainable development is a contested concept. The second section begins by examining the rationale for EU commitment to the promotion of sustainable development. It then explores two key changes that the Union has made with respect to (1) terminology and (2) the policy imperatives associated with the implementation of sustainable development. This includes an examination of the Fifth Environmental Action Programme, which represents the Commission’s translation of its commitment to sustainable development into concrete policy aims and objectives. An appraisal of EU achievements with respect to these aims and objectives is also presented. The conclusion explores the future direction of EU sustainable development policies, in the light of current political change. SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: THE IMPLEMENTATION IMPERATIVES Sustainable Development as a...

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