Research Handbook on Fundamental Concepts of Environmental Law
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Research Handbook on Fundamental Concepts of Environmental Law

Edited by Douglas Fisher

The quality and the strength of an environmental legal system is a reflection of the conceptual foundations upon which it is constructed. The Research Handbook on Fundamental Concepts of Environmental Law illuminates key aspects of environmental governance through the lens of their underlying dimensions: for example, the form, structure and language of international, regional and national instruments; the function of norms, objectives and standards; and the relevance of economic analysis and of integrated policy formulation.
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Chapter 13: Environmental policy integration: the importance of balance and trade-offs

Jørgen K. Knudsen and William M. Lafferty

Abstract

Ever since the World Commission on Environment and Development published Our Common Future (1987) (‘the Brundtland Report’) there has been both an academic and a political focus on the issue of governance for sustainable development (SD). The same report also pointed to the need to amend the political-administrative systems within which sectoral policies – such as energy – are formulated and implemented. A core assumption is that the integration of environmental concerns into decision-making at the outset would provide policy decisions contributing substantially to a transition towards sustainable development. This political-institutional thinking has been associated with the concept of ‘environmental policy integration’ (EPI). Building on previous conceptual and empirical work, the chapter elaborates on ‘EPI’ as a normative-procedural governing mechanism for sustainable development. Emphasis is placed on EPI as an instrument of ‘principled priority’ for resolving trade-offs between economic, social and environmental concerns. The chapter aims at clarifying the meaning of the approach with respect to three major bodies of research in the area: the comprehensive work on the political-strategic nature of EPI; the more academic work on EPI as policy analysis; and the research conducted on the nature and practice of EPI within the European Union. Crucially, it is here contended that an approach stressing the normative-procedural aspect of EPI is completely in line with the normative position of the Brundtland Report. The chapter then briefly indicates three governing mechanisms for strenghtening EPI as ‘procedure’ and ‘policy output’: (1) developing a ‘canon for practical judgement’ for resolving EPI-related trade-offs; (2) strenghtening the canon through a more focused integration of science, strategic assessments and the precautionary principle; and (3) anchoring the mandate for EPI in a more ‘robust’ institutionalisation of ‘political will’ for sustainable development.

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