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Articulating policy change and environmental public action through discourse

Open Panel

Abstract

The aim of this communication is to grasp the recomposition of some public policies under environmental public action. It is commonly admitted that sustainable development has emerged as a linchpin of consensus building for environmental issues. Within this context, the rhetoric of change has been particularly present in environment related discourses. However, the protean form of sustainable development has been raising questions in view of its impact on public policies. It is clear that there is no neat definition of it as a concept, and it is often described as “filled with whatever one likes” (Dryzek, 2005). This apparent malleability – i.e. the fact that different stakeholders can read various meanings into sustainable development –, which is often used to explain its wide dissemination, is also a source of interrogation. Nevertheless, sustainable development constitutes a “term of policy discourses” (Hajer, 2003). And in this context, important public policy issues have been more and more embedded in some of the scenes of environmental public action, which is for example the case in France in the field of transport. The issue of this communication is to grasp the articulation of the particularities of environmental public action to the requirements of policy change analysis, through an empirical contribution. Considering that a new discourse on transportation issues emerged during the French “Grenelle de l’Environnement” that took place in 2007, this work will aim at defining methodological and theoretical elements, on the one hand to analyse this major scene of environmental public action in France, and on the other hand to understand how a specific policy – i.e. the French highway policy – was recomposed by this new discourse.