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Environmental Policy Integration and Multi-level Governance

Final Report Summary - EPIGOV (Environmental Policy Integration and Multi-level Governance)

The EPIGOV project aimed to coordinate and synthesise research on environmental policy integration (EPI) and multi-level governance and to generate new impulses for research. More generally, the EPIGOV project format was a Coordinated Action (CA) under the European Commission's Sixth Research Framework Programme. In line with the above, the overreaching objective of the EPIGOV project was to create a process that can document and inspire progress of research. EPIGOV offered opportunities for researchers to come together at regular intervals, share research results, develop hypotheses and research methods, and discuss new initiatives for cooperative research. To achieve its overreaching objective, EPIGOV pursued the following operational goals:
- documentation of the progress of research on EPI and multi-level governance;
- coordination of ongoing research on EPI and multi-level governance;
- discussion and assessment of research to identify research needs on EPI and multi-level governance;
- dissemination of results;
- regular review of progress.

EPIGOV involved institutions and researchers who have been working for some time in EPI research as well as others, in particular from Central and Eastern Europe, who were relatively new to the field. Additional researchers who were not part of the EPIGOV consortium, policy-makers working at different levels of governance and stakeholders from environmental NGOs, business etc. participated in the EPIGOV advisory committee and the three main thematic conferences around which the project was build.

Three thematic conferences formed the backbone of EPIGOV and were held over the duration of the project. A final policy conference presenting the overall EPIGOV results to interested parties was held in Brussels on 23 January 2009. The conference was organised by Ecologic and hosted by the Sustainable Development Observatory (SDO) of the European Economic and Social Council (EESC). Each conference addressed two main themes:
- Brussels conference (15-16 February 2007, organiser: IEEP): EPI and modes of governance; EPI at EU level;
- Milan conference (22-23 November 2007, organiser: FEEM): EPI at local / regional levels; EPI at national level;
- Stockholm conference (12-13 June 2008, organiser: SEI): EPI at global level; EPI and multi-level governance.

The EPIGOV literature reviews and state-of-the-art-reports showed that there is a lack of scientific studies explicitly relating EPI to governance or modes of governance. Nevertheless, the existing literature and the EPIGOV research papers provided significant information which is relevant for analysing EPI from a governance perspective.

EPIGOV results concerning modes of governance and multi-level governance include the following:

1. Regarding the analysis in terms of basis modes of governance it is not surprising that strong sectionalisation and departmentalisation of policy-making appear to be a major, probably even the single most important obstacle to EPI. Federalism and multi-level governance also appear to cause problems, but may also provide opportunities for EPI. There are some indications that under certain conditions well co-ordinated, 'traditional' hierarchical governance may provide a favourable context, at least for implementing EPI.

2. Reflecting the lack of relevant research adopting a governance perspective, the analysis in terms of EPI modes mainly relies on studies of the types of instruments which are used to support EPI. Most of these instruments appear to be closer to 'new' than to 'old' governance. Communicative governance, which is based on information and learning, and voluntarism, which is similar to strategic management, seem to be particularly common.

3. From a perspective analysing multi-level interactions between modes of governance affecting EPI, findings from Europeanisation research suggest that the impact at Member State level of EU EPI measures associated with various modes of governance ranges from positive ideational effects to problem transfer. Effects of EU EPI measures associated with hierarchical governance tend to have positive impacts on EPI in the context of international institutions. For example, integrating setting binding EU wide EPI targets may have very different effects depending on the sectoral governance context at national level. At the global level the (prospect of) adoption of EU environmental measures associated with hierarchical governance may provide the EU with significant opportunities to 'upload' EPI. However, such processes have so far only rarely been studied and their longer-term implications for a more comprehensive, sustained greening of sectoral international institutions remain unclear.

4.The success of efforts to improve EPI has so far been limited. While EPI measures appear to have had some effect on political discourse and strategies, decision-making procedures and routines in core sectors were rarely affected. In addition, in some of the more successful instances of EPI cases of problem transfer have occurred.

5. Intensified consideration of the following issues may contribute to improving EPI:
- Factors related to administrative and political culture have so far hardly been studied in relation to EPI.
- If factors related to political culture constitute an important determinant of the effectiveness of EPI, policies supporting EPI may in future have to rely to a greater extent on measures affecting the attitudes of sectoral actors than is currently the case.
- To increase the effectiveness of EPI, policy-makers and stakeholders should consider a stronger integration of EPI into 'traditional' environmental policymaking.
- Flexible and participatory environmental instruments, such as certain types of framework legislation and market-based instruments, which create new environmentally beneficial opportunities for sectoral actors, encourage them to constructively engage with environmental requirements and explore different options, are likely to have positive secondary effects on EPI.

EPIGOV achieved its main objectives and the results were disseminated through various means, the main of which remains its website, found at: http://www.ecologic.eu/projekte/epigov.