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Which Governance for Which Environment? Institutions, social preferences and knowledge for governing environmental issues


Which Governance for Which Environment?
Institutions, social preferences and knowledge for governing environmental issues

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Purpose of the workshop:

The development of so-called new commons in matter of environment through the pace of globalisation and economic growth raises new challenges for the social sciences. The main characteristics of these new commons is their existence at multiple scales: some have an entirely global aspect such as the protection of the ozone layer, others are transboundaries such as clean air, or still others are multilevel in character such as biodiversity (with both a local dimension as a common pool of physical resources, and a global component as a collective stock of genes for future generations). This clearly challenges existing governance regimes built on Nation-States and International Conventions since many “rights” are loosely defined and since many “externalities” occur generating therefore complex and numerous “tragedies of the commons”. These problems are deepened by scientific uncertainties both on the phenomenon at play and about efficient solutions.

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Since the publication of path-breaking contributions on these issues in the early 1990’s many political initiatives have been taken, many governance experiments have been run, and many researches have been carried out at the frontier between environmental sciences and social sciences.

This interdisciplinary workshop wants to address the new challenges in the provision of environmental goods and take stock of the knowledge that has been accumulated over the years, while remaining dispersed. The aim is to contribute to build common knowledge on the appropriate governance regimes to be considered for different types of goods.

In particular, the workshop will insist on the idea that the various environmental goods have contrasted properties in terms of rivalry, excludability, degree of globalization and timing; which leads to contrasted appropriate governance regimes. The workshop will also rely on the idea that the way most of the known governance mechanisms (e.g. market-mimicking contracts, self-governance by communities, markets of “tradable rights”, traditional public regulations, etc.) have complex effects, especially because they are generally implemented in contexts where other mechanisms interplay and in which collective regulations face the strengths of market competition and the political games among all kinds of entities.

Workshop methodology

The workshop will be organised by using the methodology of the Dahlem conference in Germany, whose focus is on a constructed process of consensus building on the state of the literature amongst high level scholars. Presentation of review background papers (in the morning) will be alternated with brief presentations and writing sessions in parallel working groupsrestricted access– (in the afternoon), in order to produce a “state of the art” document on three specific themes of analysis.

The three workshop themes

The three interrelated themes of analysis that will be considered for the working groups on the “state of the art” are:

(1.1) What is the optimal level of governance for what type of goods?

The first axis aims at classifying the different types of goods along the conventional dimensions of excludability and depletion, by adding a third dimension: the degree of locality and globalization. We will also consider the timing of the impact of the provision of various goods, by considering especially irreversible and intergenerational effects. This broadened toolbox should allow describing the externalities and the incentive problems in a systematic manner. Both the physical and socially constructed aspects of the goods will be considered through gathering contributions from ecology and environmental sciences, but also social and political analysis.

(1.2) What modes of governance produce what results in providing environmental goods?

This second axis aims at reviewing the governance toolbox, considering different modes of governance (market transactions, relational contracting in governance networks, hierarchical command and control, and also by considering alternative way to build common decisions and common orders via direct democracy, indirect one, hierarchical governance, etc.) and different ways of coordinating amongst these modes of governance. The development of the theory — especially by considering more explicitly the impact of attitudes and beliefs on individual behaviours — and of applied studies — from anthropology to experimental economics — led to deepen the knowledge about the actual and complex effects of alternative solutions.

(1.3) What are the processes of the building and revealing of collective preferences?

This third axis aims at analyzing how governance mechanisms should also be analyzed by considering their ability/biases in building and selecting collective preferences in various social contexts and given the nature of individual preferences. Both the interdependencies amongst the preferences and the role of intrinsic preferences for public goods have to be taken into account in this choice. Contemporary research ranging from social psychology, through experimental economics to public choice offers new and stimulating insights for the analysis. Also, the complex games played among various groups of influence (citizens, scientists, economic interests, politicians, lawyers, etc.) are better understood and many ways to organize more efficient interactions among them have been experimented over the past years.

There are no lectures or formal presentations during the workgroup meetings. Instead, concentrated discussion — within and between groups — is the means by which maximum communication is achieved. To facilitate this exchange during the workshop week, review papers will be presented by key-notes speakers (restricted access)during the morning sessions. The working group meetings of the afternoon sessions are prepared in advance of the meeting through the circulation of the “background papers” (restricted access), the topics and authors of which are selected by the Scientific Organizing Committee. These papers review a particular aspect of the group’s discussion topic and introduce controversies and unresolved problem areas for discussion during the workshop.

Keynotes speakers:

Scientific Organizing Committee

  • Eric Brousseau, EconomiX, University of Paris X
  • Tom Dedeurwaerdere, CPDR, Catholic University of Louvain 
  • Pierre André Jouvet, EconomiX, University of Paris X
  • Marc Willinger, LAMETA, University of Montpellier




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