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Designing Policy Mixes for Emerging Pollutants. A Problem Type-Based Approach.

Environmental Policy
Governance
Policy Analysis
Sabrina Kirschke
United Nations University
Sabrina Kirschke
United Nations University
Hannah Kosow
Universität Stuttgart

Abstract

The public is increasingly concerned with emerging pollutants in freshwaters, particularly with pharmaceuticals such as analgetics, antibiotics, hormones and so forth. Such pollutants are typically at a micro level and thus mostly pass classical water treatments in both developed and less developed countries. As a consequence, aquatic systems are increasingly polluted, having negative impacts on social-ecological systems including contaminated food and drinking water. Against this background, water researchers and practitioners increasingly call for policy mixes that effectively address the problem of emerging pollutants in freshwaters, and pharmaceuticals, more particularly. They consider here different types of measures (e.g., source- vs. effect-based measures of different intensities) and governance strategies for defining and implementing such measures (e.g. regulations, economic incentives, and participation), as well as their occurrence and relative dominance within policy mixes. However, given the novelty of the problem, effective policy mixes are still to be defined. Our research is design-oriented, applying a problem-type based approach to identify relevant policy mixes for addressing emerging pollution in Germany. Based on the assumption that the problem of emerging contaminants is structurally similar to other pollution problems, we (i) identify relevant criteria for assessing policy mixes, and (ii) test to which degree currently discussed policy mixes fulfill these criteria. To identify relevant assessment criteria for policy mixes in the field of emerging pollutants, we analyze literature in the field of complex water pollution problems, particularly pollution with nitrogen. We focus on pollution with nitrogen since (i) this problem has been heavily studied in the policy literature, and (ii) research shows important similarities between this problem area and the area of emerging pollutants, considering criteria such as complexity, goal conflicts, uncertainty, and risk perception. The subsequent empirical assessment of policy mixes follows a two-step approach. First, alternative policy mixes of measures and governance strategies regarding CECs and particularly pharmaceuticals are identified based on a review of policy relevant documents produced by key actors in the field (e.g., public authorities, political parties, research entities, pharmaceutical industry, and environmental and consumers’ associations) as well as through complementary explorative interviews. In a second step, the different policy mixes are evaluated along the identified assessment criteria, using an ordinal scale (traffic light system) for the evaluation. First results of the literature analysis suggest the assessment criteria ‘diversity of measures and governance strategies’ and ‘coherence with related policies’ for increasing effectiveness. Further empirical analyses reveal different mixtures of source-and effect-based approaches and governance strategies such as regulation, economic incentives and persuasion. The systematic assessment will reveal relevant policy mixes in the field of water pollution based on problem type-proven criteria. As an outcome, this research will contribute to systematic assessments of policy mixes for emerging policy problems. This will also advance discussions on the role of problem-type based analyses in public policy analyses more generally.