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MILJØFORSK-Miljøforskning for en grønn samfunnsomstilling

Designing knowledge-based management systems for environmental governance in Norway

Alternativ tittel: Utforming av kunnskapsbaserte forvaltningssystemer for miljøstyring i Norge

Tildelt: kr 5,0 mill.

Our results on the science-policy interface draw in different directions. 1. With a view to chemicals that are nominated by Norway for listing in the Stockholm Convention on POPs (persistent organic pollutants), we find indications that the process has become depoliticized. It is likely that this is because the scientific knowledge behind the evaluation of harmful substances is highly advanced and difficult to understand. It might also partly be due to the low level of conflicting interests involved and that Norway in any case would support the listing of substances that do not involve costs to Norwegian interests. The lack of public salience might have gone both ways, either hampering (why spend money on this?) or boosting (through depolarization) the nomination process. The latter seems to have been the case, also because pollutants and Arctic issues range high on political agendas anyhow. There is also a high level of trust among the main political, environmental and scientific actors, the ministry, the directorate and the scientists. Scientific knowledge is trusted and applied. 2. The study of the extent to which and how knowledge influenced the Norwegian local management reform finds that the backdrop for the reform was political motivation to reduce conflict levels associated with establishment and management of protected areas. Ecological knowledge demonstrated that Norwegian protected areas were under increasing pressure from environmental threats. Knowledge about delegation of authority to the local level was gained through carrying out and evaluating four trial schemes. Despite significant concerns with the trial schemes, the Norwegian Government decided to carry out the reform without major changes. Our study indicates international knowledge regarding consequences of local management reforms was not explicitly taken into account during preparation of the reform. Such knowledge taken together with international trends in support of local management may have supported the implementation of the Norwegian reform. The study concludes that knowledge about problems related to the local management reform does not seem to have had a strong impact on the decision to carry out the reform. Hence, it is unlikely that the reform will secure improved attainment of long-term conservation objectives. 3. Our third case, on hydropower, indicates that knowledge has been employed strategically in the EU demanded revision of old hydropower plants. There is a strong alliance in Norway against applying specific ecological knowledge about river systems, namely 1) The politicians (who want to score on energy / climate policy in Europe), 2) Those who profit directly from development of hydropower dams, and 3) The environmentalists who advocate climate politics. These groups rely on much more general knowledge on climate change to support their position, rather than letting specific ecological knowledge concerning river ecosystems (produced at national and international levels and demanded by the EU Water Framework Directive) affect policy decisions. Confronting theoretical assumptions, this means that when the level of conflicting interests is high, this does not necessarily imply that knowledge will not be used in policy making, but rather that knowledge will tend to be used strategically. 4. The fourth case, management of nanotechnology, raises the question of whether we see the development of science-based management or rather a management system based on what is politically feasible. We do see a case of management being outsourced to the regional level (the EU and REACH). Interestingly, the nano-case seems to indicate that perceptions of scientific uncertainty are more prominent in the EU (and in OECD more generally) than what appears to be the case in Norway. This brings us to the second major research topic of public salience. Our preliminary research results on public salience shed light on an interesting question: Why is the seriousness of the environmental problem (scientific uncertainty regarding harmful chemicals and effects of nanotechnology, failings regarding nature management) not reflected in media attention, public salience and politics? One explanation could hinge on the predominance of the climate issue in the media, eclipsing everything to do with the environment. Alternatively, this could reflect a situation where environmental problems have mostly been successfully dealt with: the lesser application of scientific knowledge could mean that the management systems have successfully handled the problems. Nevertheless, the nano case in particular puts the issues of the informed citizen and the responsible state on the agenda.

Knowledge on how environmental challenges are integrated is increasing, which means that they tend to affect each other significantly, often in complex ways. The organization of knowledge production is, however, increasingly segregated by the need for spe cialized management and also increasingly internationalized, involving a growing number of international bodies and specialized EU agencies. While the challenges are integrated, organizational responses and solutions tend to be fragmented. Moreover, domes tic management systems still rely heavily on national research institutes and other forms of knowledge production at different levels of society, such as local experience. Norwegian decision-makers are accordingly increasingly exposed to complex scientifi c findings and advice produced at different levels of governance by a variety of knowledge producers in different issue areas. The project seeks to improve understanding of the changes in knowledge production and how these changes can be managed and used to improve management systems for environmental governance in Norway. To what extent do various sources of knowledge influence national management systems, what explains variance in the influence of knowledge and how does knowledge affect the design of ( integrated) management systems? These questions will be applied to Norwegian management systems in four cases: protected areas, water management, POPs and nanotechnology. These cases are selected to obtain variation in dependent and independent variables guiding the analysis.


MILJØFORSK-Miljøforskning for en grønn samfunnsomstilling