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VC Course Complexity Policy problems in environment & sustainability Steve Dovers Fenner School of Environment & Society 21 May 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "VC Course Complexity Policy problems in environment & sustainability Steve Dovers Fenner School of Environment & Society 21 May 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 VC Course Complexity Policy problems in environment & sustainability Steve Dovers Fenner School of Environment & Society 21 May 2013

2 Complexity Dovers Context & coverage Many definitions of complexity, wicked problems … not repeating those -- you decide what’s complex or not. Many definitions of complexity, wicked problems … not repeating those -- you decide what’s complex or not. Policy problems and institutional challenges as manifest in a particular policy domain: -- history and broad nature of the domain. -- problem attributes. -- the hard edge of policy and complex problem – choosing a policy instrument. Policy problems and institutional challenges as manifest in a particular policy domain: -- history and broad nature of the domain. -- problem attributes. -- the hard edge of policy and complex problem – choosing a policy instrument. If time – an example and exercise. If time – an example and exercise.

3 Complexity Dovers Sources: Supplied (or will be…): - Dovers et al 2008 in Bammer & Smithson. - Dovers 2009 in Glob.Env Change. Supplied (or will be…): - Dovers et al 2008 in Bammer & Smithson. - Dovers 2009 in Glob.Env Change. Other: - Connor, R. and Dovers, S Institutional change for sustainable development. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. - Dovers, S Environment and sustainability policy. Sydney: Federation Press. - Handmer, J. and Dovers, S Handbook of disaster policy and institutions. 2 nd edition. London: Earthscan. Other: - Connor, R. and Dovers, S Institutional change for sustainable development. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. - Dovers, S Environment and sustainability policy. Sydney: Federation Press. - Handmer, J. and Dovers, S Handbook of disaster policy and institutions. 2 nd edition. London: Earthscan.

4 Complexity Dovers Environment & resource management  sustainability & sustainable development A summary -- familiar to some, others not --

5 Complexity Dovers Beyond end-of-pipe: Increasing complexity in problem-framing and policy responses From: single environmental problems, point-source pollution control, nature conservation, single stock resource management. From: single environmental problems, point-source pollution control, nature conservation, single stock resource management. Through: multiple, bigger, more complex environmental and resource management problems. Through: multiple, bigger, more complex environmental and resource management problems. Toward: sustainability – environment and development, linked ecological, social & economic agenda. Toward: sustainability – environment and development, linked ecological, social & economic agenda. Still struggling with enlarging environmental agenda, while grappling with emerging sust problems. Still struggling with enlarging environmental agenda, while grappling with emerging sust problems. AND, DECISIONS REQUIRED NOW. AND, DECISIONS REQUIRED NOW.

6 Complexity Dovers Examples … From soil conservation  integrated catchment management  - regional governance From soil conservation  integrated catchment management  - regional governance From point-source pollution regulation  load- based licensing  Env Management Systems, triple-bottom-line accounting  managing multiple diffuse sources. From point-source pollution regulation  load- based licensing  Env Management Systems, triple-bottom-line accounting  managing multiple diffuse sources. From tree preservation  land clearance controls  regional vegn plans  stewardship payments. From tree preservation  land clearance controls  regional vegn plans  stewardship payments. From an EPA and a parks services  environment depts  strategic assessment and sustainability policy units. From an EPA and a parks services  environment depts  strategic assessment and sustainability policy units. From scattered nature reserves  patches and strips  managing biodiversity across tenures and landscapes (connectivity conservation). From scattered nature reserves  patches and strips  managing biodiversity across tenures and landscapes (connectivity conservation).

7 Complexity Dovers Defining sustainability (Rio +20) Sustainability: a system property, or a long term goal. Sustainability: a system property, or a long term goal. Sustainable development: an evolving policy agenda. Sustainable development: an evolving policy agenda. Brundtland (WCED 1987): Sustainable development is development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts: -- the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and -- the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs. Brundtland (WCED 1987): Sustainable development is development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts: -- the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and -- the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs. Long time scales, local-global links, interconnected phenomena, significant uncertainty, high stakes = complex, wicked problems? Long time scales, local-global links, interconnected phenomena, significant uncertainty, high stakes = complex, wicked problems?

8 Complexity Dovers Constituent issue of sustainable development: 1. Issues of resource depletion and degradation, over many centuries, esp C19-20th: -- loss of biological diversity; land and water resources; forests; energy; minerals; amenity. 2. Issues of pollution and wastes, from 17 th century, but big from the 1960s: -- atmospheric, marine and water pollution; 3. Issues of ecological life support services, from 1980s: -- ecosystem integrity; nutrient cycles; climate change; integrity of evolutionary processes. 4. Issues of society and human condition, esp s: -- population; development/poverty; food security; shelter; health; urbanization; human rights; education; trade; security. Sustainability = 1 & 2, plus 3 & 4 – 1987/92 – Rio. Sustainability = 1 & 2, plus 3 & 4 – 1987/92 – Rio.

9 The global discourse… 1966: Boulding’s “Spaceship Earth” essay – modern idea of sustainability. 1966: Boulding’s “Spaceship Earth” essay – modern idea of sustainability. 1972: Stockholm conference on human environment, and Limits to Growth. 1972: Stockholm conference on human environment, and Limits to Growth s: Brandt and Palme UN commissions on development/poverty and human security/peace s: Brandt and Palme UN commissions on development/poverty and human security/peace. 1980: World Conservation Strategy. 1980: World Conservation Strategy : Our Common Future – WCED/Brundtland – environment and development, security : Our Common Future – WCED/Brundtland – environment and development, security in Rio: UNCED – 2002 Rio+10 – 2012 Rio+20… 1992 in Rio: UNCED – 2002 Rio+10 – 2012 Rio+20… Sust development – the biggest agenda ever… Sust development – the biggest agenda ever… Complexity Dovers 20139

10 10 Rise and fall of sustainable development: resisting complexity? Too vague, messy, inherent tensions, not suited to specialised approaches, too far off (are we there yet…?) Too vague, messy, inherent tensions, not suited to specialised approaches, too far off (are we there yet…?) Higher-order social goal – akin to democracy, justice, rule of law – a generational task for research, policy and institutional change. Higher-order social goal – akin to democracy, justice, rule of law – a generational task for research, policy and institutional change. Fragmented knowledge, institutional settings and policy responses caused the problems, and no other candidate for an integrative framework. Fragmented knowledge, institutional settings and policy responses caused the problems, and no other candidate for an integrative framework. EG: Australia 1992 ESD Strategy (for Rio), versus Australia 2002 (at J’burg) focus on selected issues. EG: Australia 1992 ESD Strategy (for Rio), versus Australia 2002 (at J’burg) focus on selected issues. Huge agenda re-affirmed at Rio +20. Huge agenda re-affirmed at Rio +20.

11 Complexity Dovers Resisting complexity: other examples Land degradation 1980s (aka desertification) = multiple forms of soil erosion, irrigation and dryland salinity, rangeland vegetation decline, soil structural decline, soil acidification… -- almost total focus on dryland salinity in 1990s. Land degradation 1980s (aka desertification) = multiple forms of soil erosion, irrigation and dryland salinity, rangeland vegetation decline, soil structural decline, soil acidification… -- almost total focus on dryland salinity in 1990s. Instream water use (1980s) = ecological, geomorphic integrity, aesthetic, cultural, recreational.. -- to strictly environmental (ecological) flows in 1990s. Instream water use (1980s) = ecological, geomorphic integrity, aesthetic, cultural, recreational.. -- to strictly environmental (ecological) flows in 1990s. Carbon pricing ( ) = a “great big new tax”.  More focused, or resisting complexity?  Can we only twiddle one knob at a time? Carbon pricing ( ) = a “great big new tax”.  More focused, or resisting complexity?  Can we only twiddle one knob at a time?

12 Complexity Dovers If these problems are complex… … ie need to understand and manage many, interconnecting factors and processes)… … then the research and policy challenge is by definition different in kind, if not in degree, than many other domains? … but, why?

13 Complexity Dovers Attributes of policy problems in sustainability 1: extended spatial and temporal scales. 2: possible ecological limits to human activities. 3: irreversible and/or cumulative impacts. 4: cross-problem connectivity. 5: pervasive risk and uncertainty. 7: poor information base. 6: important assets not traded and thus not valued. 8: new ethical dimensions (other species, future). 9: systemic problem causes. 10: poorly developed theory, methods, techniques. 11: poorly defined policy and property rights. 12: non-existent or ill-fitting institutional settings. 13: demands for integration of knowledge silos. 14: novelty as a policy and institutional domain. Attributes = complexity?

14 Complexity Dovers Sustainability problems: different in kind and degree? Such attributes confronted more often, and more often in combination, with major sustainability problems, than in most other policy sectors. … problems different in kind, and some would argue different in degree as well. Traditional policy-oriented disciplines, and policy processes, unlikely to have purchase.

15 So… Human behaviours and use of environments and resources are unsustainable. How to change this? Complexity Dovers

16 “Oughtism” Someone oughta do something about… -- over allocated water resources -- climate change -- degraded environments = degraded livelihoods -- decline of oceanic fisheries -- biodiversity conservation -- energy dependency and car reliance -- etc, etc… That’s policy instrument choice – “don’t tell me the problem, tell me how to fix it with a policy response”.  an exercise on this later. Complexity Dovers

17 Complexity Dovers The politics of instrument choice A policy initiative involves specific tools to achieve its goals. Policy interventions use policy instruments to drive behaviour change, of individuals, households, firms, communities, sectors, govts.  social engineering? Policy instrument choice = convenience, disciplinary bias, ease, swiftness, or familiarity ‘Policy fashions’ evident -- past experience, political preferences, dominant ideologies. Often from a limited menu – sometimes inevitably, sometimes regrettably.

18 Complexity Dovers Beyond simplistic debates: Three commonly advocated approaches: - sticks – regulate with law - sermons – educate the public - carrots – create a market or price. Often, policy debates focus on arguing which is ‘best’, in a general sense.

19 Complexity Dovers … and limited choices 3 problems with such arguments… Almost always use a combination of instruments, hopefully coordinated. There are more than just regulatory, educative and market mechanisms Within such general classes, there are options.  how to create a menu, and how to choose?

20 Complexity Dovers Instrument classes (from 3  15) R&D, monitoring Communication & information flow Education & training Consultation, mediation Agreements, conventions Statute law Common law Covenants on property Assessment (eg. EIA) Self-regulation Community involvement Market mechanisms Institutional change Change other policies Inaction (with cause)

21 Complexity Dovers But wait, there’s more… This menu is richer and more realistic, but still too simple - each class contains a variety of specific instruments. Not always possible to consider all, but important to recognise the range. Some examples of more detail …

22 Complexity Dovers Instrument menu, level 2 Education and training: Education and training: Public education (“moral suasion”) Targeted education (subset of popn) Formal education (schools, tertiary) Training (skills development) Education about ‘the environment’, education about other instruments.

23 Complexity Dovers … level 2, continued Statute law (legislation) - new law or regulations under existing statute, to: Statute law (legislation) - new law or regulations under existing statute, to: Create institutions and organisations Set out statutory objects and agency roles Define decision making processes Allow public participation Set aside land; plan and control the use of land Enforce standards, prohibit practices Require product labeling Enable other instruments.

24 Complexity Dovers level 2, continued Market mechanisms (price instruments): Market mechanisms (price instruments): Input or output taxes or charges Use charges Subsidies, rebates Tradable pollution permits, resource rights Performance assurance bonds Deposit-refund systems. … general classes = different options

25 Complexity Dovers Selection criteria: how to choose? Effectiveness criteria: Effectiveness criteria: Information requirements Dependability Timing Corrective effect Flexibility Cost, efficiency Cross-sectoral impacts. Implementation criteria: Implementation criteria: Equity impacts Political feasibility Legal feasibility Institutional feasibility Monitoring requirements Compliance Communicability.

26 Complexity Dovers EXAMPLE EXERCISE: Paddock trees Scattered or paddock trees – icons of Australian art, landscape and identity, covering vast areas. Scattered or paddock trees – icons of Australian art, landscape and identity, covering vast areas. Much more significant than thought – stock shelter, water infiltration, pest control (predators), wildlife. Much more significant than thought – stock shelter, water infiltration, pest control (predators), wildlife. Previous focus on patches and strips for vegetation protection and restoration – another increase in scale/complexity of the biodiversity policy problem. Previous focus on patches and strips for vegetation protection and restoration – another increase in scale/complexity of the biodiversity policy problem. Demographic collapse – relicts of pre-clearing and grazing, low or nil recruitment – treeless in 50 years? Demographic collapse – relicts of pre-clearing and grazing, low or nil recruitment – treeless in 50 years? Across whole grazing landscape… Across whole grazing landscape… Complex as (i) a research problem, and (ii) a target for policy interventions? Variables – site variation, grazing regime, different species, financial viability of farm, owner demographic, information availability… Complex as (i) a research problem, and (ii) a target for policy interventions? Variables – site variation, grazing regime, different species, financial viability of farm, owner demographic, information availability…

27 Complexity Dovers Familiar…?

28 As a policy problem… A big problem (biodiversity loss over millions of hectares, long term), requiring a policy response to increase appropriate management practices over 1000s of different, individual properties and owners:  policy choice for a complex problem. A big problem (biodiversity loss over millions of hectares, long term), requiring a policy response to increase appropriate management practices over 1000s of different, individual properties and owners:  policy choice for a complex problem. Complexity Dovers

29 Complexity Dovers As a research problem: Fenner CERF project

30 Go to… Sustainable Farms research project website, with details, publications, and cool 100 year landscape visualisation scenario download… research.anu.edu.au/sustfarms/ research.anu.edu.au/sustfarms/ (Finalist, 2011 Eureka Science Prizes). Complexity Dovers

31 Further sources Fischer, J. et al Reversing a tree regeneration crisis in an endangered ecoregion, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 106 (25): Schirmer, J., Dovers, S. and Clayton, H Informing conservation policy through an examination of landholder preferences: a case study of scattered tree conservation in Australia. Biological Conservation. 153: Complexity Dovers

32 Complexity Dovers Findings… Re-affirmed value of scattered trees (prodn, birds, bats..). Re-affirmed value of scattered trees (prodn, birds, bats..). Recruitment under low fertiliser, fast-rotation grazing regimes, if seed stock available, but other strategies also needed. Recruitment under low fertiliser, fast-rotation grazing regimes, if seed stock available, but other strategies also needed. Majority of landholders value scattered trees, but do not currently manage for recruitment or retention. Majority of landholders value scattered trees, but do not currently manage for recruitment or retention. Demographics – superannuation farming, low succession. Demographics – superannuation farming, low succession. Land use change – increased cropping (=removal of obstacles to tillage and irrigation). Land use change – increased cropping (=removal of obstacles to tillage and irrigation). Need to deal with varied biophysical situations, different financial situations, range of management regimes, attitudes to management, etc – farmer aren’t farmers. Need to deal with varied biophysical situations, different financial situations, range of management regimes, attitudes to management, etc – farmer aren’t farmers. Variable receptivity to policy instruments. Variable receptivity to policy instruments.

33 Complexity Dovers As a target for policy intervention What are the policy options to change behaviours (management) of landholders?  with scarce resources, fragmented responsibilities, information overload, diverse audiences, existing programs and focus – what priority ‘investments’, in what combination?

34 Exercise: Four groups – policy instrument choice: 1. Landholders/farmers (who value trees but need to survive financially). 2. Cwlth govt (design and fund policy). 3. State/CMA (advise and implement). 4. Conservation NGO (priority = biodiversity). 5-10min, then a proposal from each group. Complexity Dovers


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