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New Principles and Instruments of Environmental Governance and the Influence of Scientific Input
With case studies from fisheries, GMOs, climate change and forestry

To what extent does the spread of certain new principles and instruments of environmental governance change the conditions for competing knowledge producers to affect environmental policy and implementation? By softening the link between scientific certainty on environmental risk and the assessment of policy options, the precautionary principle has in some areas led to greater competition between various disciplines and knowledge producers called upon to provide scientific input. The principle of transparency increasingly obliges states to ensure that interest groups and individuals have access to environmental information and can participate in the making of such decisions. A third tendency in environmental governance is the growing use of ’new’ instruments, including voluntary agreements and mandatory procedures for industry-based risk assessment, market-based instruments such as quotas, and schemes for environmental labelling.

This project aimed at clarifying the extent to which these developments have influenced the access that various knowledge producers have to environmental decision making. To what extent, and how, has the level of scientific controversy in the science-policy interface been affected? And what is the relationship between such patterns of access and controversy and the influence of competing claims to relevant knowledge? The project's geographic focus was Norway, neighbouring countries and the European Union. Four areas of environmental governance were examined: Fisheries, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), forestry and climate change. In addition, a cross-issue and over-time comparative study was conducted.

The case study on fisheries focused on the controversy that surrounded the development and implementation of a precautionary approach to management of Northeast Arctic cod, managed jointly by Norway and Russia. Scientific input has been orchestrated by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. Whereas the biologist-centered advisory process has been attacked by industry groups and others as inadequate with respect to socio-economic risks and options, NGOs have forwarded the opposite criticism that management is excessively inclusive of industry input.

The case study on GMOs examined the assessment involved in decisions on applications for genetically modified food, feed, or plants in Norway. All applications of these types sent to the EU must be separately decided on by Norwegian authorities. The main question has been how competing knowledge claimants achieve access to the decision-making process relating to GMOs in Norway. A sub-question has related this to international institutional factors: How do multilateral environmental and trade agreements – especially their differential emphasis on certainty in evidence of risk – affect the formation and strength of knowledge claims relating to GMO assessment in Norway.

A third study examined the relationship between competing knowledge claims about biodiversity status and trends and environmental protection in Norwegian and Swedish forestry. This study has seeked to clarify whether, and how, this relationship has been affected by principles such as precaution, transparency and those embedded in international biodiversity and forestry agreements, and by non-state, market-driven forest certification and labelling schemes. (More details about this study to be found here.)

The case study on EU emission trading focused on a new policy instrument in climate policy. In this case study, we explored whether and how emission trading has changed access to environmental information and participation in climate policy making so far and central prospects ahead. Hence, the study proceeded in two steps. First, we analyzed actual participation in the design of the system at EU level. Second, we explored the consequences of actual participation for future access and participation in decision-making at European and global levels. Preliminary observations poined in two opposite directions. On the one hand, emission trading had represented an extremely complex policy instrument developed by a small core group of insiders. We thus expeced that this instrument would lead to specialization and narrow participation. On the other hand, the implementation of emission trading in Europe resembled an extensive learning process among companies, governments and green organizations. According to this observation, we expected broader participation and knowledge with regard to emission trading particularly as a part of the Kyoto Protocol. With regard to corporations we investigated to what extent emissions trading put climate policy far more firmly on the corporate agenda.

The project was part of the Research Council of Norway's RAMBU programme.

Project leader: Olav Schram Stokke

Project period: 2005-2008


Gulbrandsen, Lars H., Transnational Environmental Governance: The Emergence and Effects of the Certification of Forests and Fisheries. Cheltenham, UK/Northampton (MA), USA, Edward Elgar, 2010 (Hardback) / 2012 (Paperback), 213 p.

Myhr, Anne Ingeborg and G. Kristin Rosendal, 'GMO Assessment in Norway: Societal Utility and Sustainable Development'.EMBO Reports, Vol 10, No 9, 2009, pp. 2-3.

Wettestad, Jørgen, 'European Climate Policy: Toward Centralized Governance?' Review of Policy Research, Vol 26, No 3, 2009, pp. 311-328.

G. Kristin Rosendal, 'Interpreting Sustainable Development and Societal Utility in Norwegian GMO Assessments'. European Environment, Vol 18, No 4, 2008, pp. 243-256.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Accountability Arrangements in Non-State Standards Organizations: Instrumental Design and Imitation'. Organization, Vol 15, No 4, 2008, pp. 563-583.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H, 'The Role of Science in Environmental Governance: Competing Knowledge Producers in Swedish and Norwegian Forestry'. Global Environmental Politics, Vol 8, No 2, 2008, pp. 99-122.

Stokke, Olav Schram, 'Internasjonale utfordringer for marine ressurser' ('International Challenges Concerning Marine Resources'). In Globale Norge: Hva nå? Norske miljø- og ressursinteresser i en globalisert verden ('Global Norway: What Now? Norwegian Environmental and Resource Interests in a Globalized World'). Oslo, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2007, pp. 49-58. In Norwegian.

Rosendal, G. Kristin, Competing Knowledge Claims and GMO Assessment by the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board. FNI Report 5/2007. Lysaker, FNI, 2007, 30 p.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Creating Markets for Eco-labelling: Are Consumers Insignificant?'. International Journal of Consumer Studies, Vol 30, No 5, 2006, pp. 477-489.

Skjærseth, Jon Birger, Olav Schram Stokke and Jørgen Wettestad, 'Soft Law, Hard Law, and Effective Implementation of International Environmental Norms'. Global Environmental Politics, Vol 6, No 3, 2006, pp. 104-120.

Andresen, Steinar, Lars Walløe and G. Kristin Rosendal, 'The Precautionary Principle: Knowledge Counts but Power Decides'. In Cooney, Rosie and Barney Dickson (eds), Biodiversity and the Precautionary Principle: Risk and Uncertainty in Conservation and Sustainable Use. London, Earthscan, 2005, pp. 39-55.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Sustainable Forestry in Sweden: The Effect of Competition Among Private Certification Schemes', The Journal of Environment and Development, Vol 14, No 3, 2005, pp. 338-355.

Commentary articles:

Stokke, Olav Schram, 'Vitenskap og politikk i miljø- og ressursforvaltningen: Konkurranse, usikkerhet og gjennomslag' ('Science and Politics in Environmental and Resource Management: Competition, Uncertainty, and Influence'). Forskning for en bedre miljøforvaltning. Oslo, Research Council of Norway, 19 November 2008. In Norwegian.

Stokke, Olav Schram, 'Kampen om rovfisket i nord' ('The struggle over illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Barents Sea'). Aftenposten, 22 October 2005. In Norwegian.
(English version available here)

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Forvirring om samfunnsansvar' ('Confusion about Corporate Social Responsibility)'. Aftenposten, 10 August 2005. In Norwegian.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Norske Skogs nei til Union' ('Norske Skog's No to Union Paper Mill'). Aftenposten, 2 August 2005. In Norwegian.

Conference presentations:

Stokke, Olav Schram, Kunnskapsprodusenter i miljø- og ressursforvaltningen: Voksende konkurranse, nye betingelser for innflytelse? ('Knowledge Producers in the Environment and Resource Management Administration: Growing Competition, New Conditions for Influence?'). Presentation held at the RAMBU Programme Conference 'Rammebetingelser, styringsmuligheter og virkemidler for en bærekraftig utvikling', 7-8 February 2006.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., Doctoral Project. Presented at a scientific seminar on international forest processes at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, 6 september 2005.

Gulbrandsen, Lars, Standard-setting ideals, practices, and performance: Two competing forest certification schemes in Sweden. Paper presented at the 7th Nordic Conference on Environmental Social Sciences, Gothenburg University, 15-17 June 2005.
 Related focal points of research:

   Global environmental governance and law
   Biodiversity and genetic resources
   Climate change
   Law of the Sea and marine affairs

Project funding:

   The Research Council of Norway

Recent relevant FNI News:

FNI Book Examines the Impact of Certification Schemes on Environmental Governance (23.08.2010)

Lars H. Gulbrandsen Obtains PhD Degree on Environmental Certification in the Forestry and Fisheries Sectors (01.04.09)

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