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Legal Architectures: The Influence of New Environmental Governance Rules on Environmental Compliance

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - LEGALARCHITECTURES (Legal Architectures: The Influence of New Environmental Governance Rules on Environmental Compliance)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2019-12-31

"Non-compliance with environmental rules is one of the key weaknesses of the EU’s
environmental policy. Reasons given for non-compliance include that it may be a
consequence of resource deficiencies combined with the
difficulties associated with securing political agreement on stronger supranational
enforcement measures, such as an EU environmental enforcement agency or binding
generally applicable to EU rules on inspections and enforcement. These
problems are confounded by the fact that the processes through which policies are designed,
delivered and implemented involve greater interaction between a wider range of actors
operating at an increased number of levels now than they did several decades ago. Since the 1990s, the EU has recognised these challenges by strongly promoting
“new” methods of environmental governance but, as yet, surprisingly little
is known about the extent to which this substantial change in environmental governance laws
has actually influenced compliance levels in practice, and why.
The overarching aim of the five-year Effective Nature Laws project is to establish how
environmental governance rules affect stakeholder compliance decisions in environmental
law, and how our governance rules might best be designed to maximise environmental
compliance. As such, the project operates on the boundaries of European governance, sociolegal,
law and economics and behavioural economics literatures. More specifically, we are
interested in investigating the impacts of governance rules on, firstly, stakeholders’ decisions
to comply with law and, secondly, stakeholders’ voluntary decisions to go further than the
letter of the law. We have chosen to focus on EU biodiversity policy, given (a) the serious
compliance issues which have arisen in this field, including in the selected jurisdictions; (b)
the fact that the law at EU level is in large part contained in the Habitats and Birds Directive;
and (c) the fact that Member States are free to “go further” than the minimum requirements of
EU law in this field, and these Directives represent a minimum level of protection.
Geographically, the project adopts a comparative approach and focuses on three jurisdictions;
namely, Ireland, Netherlands and France.
By means of four work packages adopting statistical regression techniques, surveys, interviews and ""lab"" experiments, the project will achieve empirical evidence as to how the environmental governance laws in a jurisdiction influence the compliance levels. As a result, it will enable practical advice to be given to Member States institutions seeking to design their governance laws in the most effective and tailored manner."
Feedback on the key aims and methodologies of the project was received by presenting the project in a number of fora, including (1) at the interdisciplinary Autumn FitzGerald School held in UCD in November 2015 (the PI and Dr Murphy presented); (2) at the Geary Institution of Public Policy, UCD (an interdisciplinary institute of social science and policy) in March 2016; (3) at the 2016 Conference of the Standing Group on Regulatory Governance of the European Consortium for Political Research, Tilburg, The Netherlands; (4) the keynote address in the Society of Legal Scholars' environmental law stream, 2017; and (5) most importantly, at a very successful international workshop that we organised and hosted in UCD in March 2016, at which all of the key stakeholders were represented, including the European Commission, the Irish Environmental Protection Agency, the Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Irish member of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee, and leading academics in environmental governance from the Netherlands and France.
After that methodology workshop, the project moved to focus on implementing its first work package, which is a statistical regression analysis of the relationship between changes in environmental governance laws and compliance indicators over time. Databases of relevant laws have been compiled, coding questionnaires developed, and the process of coding of the relevant laws is currently in course. We are now in the course of completing our second work package, involving surveys, and have also commenced our third work package. The PI has also published several articles in the broad area of environmental governance including in edited collections and the Irish Jurist.
The project is the first of its kind investigating the ways in which governance rules, including in particular the push towards greater involvement of non-State actors in environmental governance, can influence the effectiveness of environmental regulation. In this way, through the use of novel and challenging mixed methods approaches across three jurisdictions, we will make new findings about the ways in which we can design our laws to make biodiversity regulation more effective.