Governing towards sustainability environmental governance and policy change in Swedish forestry and transport
Abstract: Faced with environmental problems such as climate change and biodiversity loss, the dominant political response has been sustainable development, balancing environmental protection against economic prosperity and social justice. While political action is increasingly being called for, the role and capacity of the state is questioned – as captured neatly in the story from government to governance that implies a relocation of authority and power between policy levels and in public-private relations, as well as a radical restructuring within public administration. Taking its conceptual point of departure in theories of sustainable development, governance, and policy change, this thesis assesses, explains, and theorises about recent developments of environmental governing within Swedish forestry and transport, two areas with high environmental impact and that involve strong economic values and interests. The findings are presented in four articles that have all been published in leading academic journals. The thesis concludes that public policy has changed within both policy areas as environmental objectives and new modes of governing have been adopted – a development that can be characterised as governing towards sustainability. However, the storyline from government to governance is too simple to capture these changes. The state remains important in several ways (actor, arena, institutional structure, form of authority) and influences society through a variety of modes of governing. Thus, governance and government remain relevant. To explain policy change we need to recognise multiple barriers to and enablers of change as well as having a contextual understanding of the policy area in focus. The thesis concludes by arguing that sustainable development needs to be politicised in terms of visible political action and open political contestation between differing visions of a sustainable society.
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