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Critical perspectives in Environmental Policy and Planning

Democracy
Environmental Policy
Governance
Knowledge
Technology
Activism
S13
Geraint Ellis
Queen's University Belfast
Tamara Metze
Wageningen University and Research Center


Abstract

The section welcomes theoretically and critically-informed papers that address governance and policy aspects of our socio-ecological crises. Issues of climate change, resource scarcity and biodiversity loss are pervasive and infuse every aspect of public policy and planning. Indeed, discourses of ecological modernization that flagged the need for integration of environmental concerns across policy areas is not only an inescapable condition, but also has to take into account increasingly complex and socio-political contexts. Meta-trends like globalization and digitalization, uneven development, the rise of populism, or the crisis of epistemic authority and representative democracy pose deep challenges for effective, just and sustainable governance. Our understanding of the causal factors, drivers, risks and responses to these interconnected crises remain highly contested, and continue to be a major source of tension in policy discourses, processes and implementation. This has led to a broad array of agendas, policy approaches and governance arrangements with enormous variation across problem areas, geographies and polities. Well-established concepts and paradigms such as sustainable development are being reinterpreted in novel contexts, and themes such as ecological modernization are giving way to demands for more wide-scale social transformation and regime change. It is essential that scholarship in the field of environmental policy develops to take into account this changing context, and to offer critical, reflexive and progressive insights that can inform future dimensions of environmental and sustainability policy. Against this background, the editorial team of the Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning is proposing four panels that address some of the key dimensions of current scholarship in this area: Panel 1: Democratic sustainability transformations in energy and food: deliberative governance revisited Chair: Tamara Metze (Wageningen University) Co-Chair: John Boswell (University of Southampton) Current sustainability challenges demand to democratically transform the social and political discourses, institutions and practices. In this panel, we revisit what deliberative democracy theories and their offspring (e.g. deliberative governance), have to offer to these transformation processes. Democratic institutions have important roles to play in these transitions, but what does the study of democratic practices, and deliberations have to offer? In an age of increasing populism, polarization and digitalization with rapid spread of (mis)information; is there still merit in creating soft spaces for deliberation? How relevant are the procedural improvements of interactions between governmental actors and non-governmental actors, including industries, NGO’s, and the general public? This panel invites papers that critically reflect on these pressing questions of the relevance of dialogue and deliberation in soft spaces and throughout our democratic system and in our democratic fabric - since,, what is democratic, is not only based on normative theories, but also includes what people in policy practices consider to be democratic. Panel 2: Pushing the boundaries on learning in environmental governance research Chair: Andrea Gerlak (University of Arizona) Co-chair: Tanya Heikkila (University of Colorado) The scholarship on learning in environmental governance has exploded in the past two decades leading to new empirical and theoretical insights. Environmental governance scholars are increasingly interested in contexts, structures, mechanisms, and tools that can foster learning in environmental governance, and what types of learning processes are associated with sustainable governance outcomes. There are growing efforts to both synthesize and test theoretical expectations. In addition, researchers are teasing out lessons about learning to better institutionalize learning in governance processes. This panel welcomes papers examining policy learning for environmental governance. We encourage research pushing the boundaries of policy learning research with novel empirical approaches like process tracing, field and lab experiments, and longitudinal studies. More critical and interpretive methods are welcome to push empirical insights in new ways. Better understanding of failed or blocked learning in governance processes are needed. Finally, we are looking for new subject and geographical areas that are understudied in the learning scholarship to broaden the field and provide greater insight into where and under what conditions theories and frameworks have most meaning. Panel 3: Disruptive technologies and sustainability transitions Chair: Xun Wu (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) Co-Chair: Masaru Yarime ((Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) Disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, big data and blockchain can play a key role in sustainability transitions. For example, in the area of production and consumption of renewable energy, digital technologies can support the development of smart grids to integrate the distributed generation capacities for accelerating the spread of the renewable energy to new sectors. Despite enormous potential, the contribution of disruptive technologies to sustainability transitions has been so far been limited as the applications of such technologies impose major legal, ethical and institutional challenges under current governance arrangements. Governance innovation is thus imperative to mobilize and scale up the uses of disruptive technologies towards sustainability. The panel seeks to provide insights into fundamental changes in governance arrangements required to harness the potential of disruptive technologies in accelerating sustainability transitions. Panel 4: Researcher-Activists and their role in neoliberal environmental governance Chair: Geraint Ellis, Queen's University, Belfast Co-Chair: Francesca Sartorio, Cardiff University The effectiveness of policy responses to the urgency of global socio-ecological crises raises important issues around governance, political agency and knowledge translation. This panel seeks to stimulate debate around the nexus of these issues by inviting papers that can contribute to a better understanding of the relationships between environmental policy, researchers and activism. These relationships are evolving within a context where on the one hand neo-liberal universities wish to foster particular forms of knowledge translation under the banner of ‘research impact’ while on the other it is increasingly apparent that effective responses to issues such as climate change demand radical transformation of governance and economic systems, often aligned to the calls of those outside the political mainstream. This tension raises many questions over whether critical environmental researchers should become more directly aligned with activist movements, and whether there is a more engaged role for activists in the realm of knowledge translation. The panel welcomes papers that can clarify these relationships through empirical case studies, conceptual frameworks or those that explore the policy and governance implications of new alignments of researchers and activists.
Code Title Details
INN052 Critical perspectives in Environmental Policy View Panel Details
INN079 Disruptive technologies and sustainability transitions View Panel Details
INN213 Panel 1: Democratic sustainability transformations in energy and food: deliberative governance revisited View Panel Details
INN284 Pushing the boundaries on learning in environmental governance research View Panel Details
INN298 Researcher-Activists and their role in neoliberal environmental governance View Panel Details