The State of Europe’s Environment

crab shell on the sand with seaweed on a beachIn March the European Environment Agency  published its State and Outlook Environment Report (SOER) 2015 (available here). The report highlights innovations in governance needed for long term sustainability. In addition, a section of the SOER website highlights global megatrends affecting the European Environment, one of which is Diversifying Approaches to Governance.

Authors suggest key factors in diversifying governance include the rise of more and powerful non-state stakeholders in the process, intergovernmental collaboration and networks, and increasing technological capabilities that affect citizen expectations.

The SOER finds that one implication of more stakeholders entering the process is that authority disperses to numerous actors with diverse interests across public, nonprofit and private sectors; it is “already producing a profound shortage of coordination in governance.” To the extent non-state actors hold special or specific interests the risk increases that links between different policy areas will be missed.

Another implication is that diverse stakeholders often compete, leading to inefficient use of resources and the numerous actors all proposing and adopting regulations, labels, standards and norms can lead to public confusion. This is one of the challenges of balancing inclusion against efficiency.

A third implication is that the rise of business and civil society involvement can have a democratising effect, but as some non-state actors become increasingly powerful, they can undermine government authority. The authors note, “While changing technologies and rules on access to information mean that government choices are increasingly subject to the scrutiny of empowered and interconnected citizens, a shift to non-state governance may reduce the democratic legitimacy, transparency and accountability of decision-making.” Non-state actors are un-elected and therefore unaccountable publicly, and their dealings are not often transparent, the way public agencies must be.


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