Why do we study policy integration? Over the last decade, the principle of environmental policy integration (EPI) has been at the forefront of the European policy agenda. EPI as a principle is widely accepted, but despite broad-based political support, results have been disappointing.

EPI can be viewed from different angles. It has largely been a domain for environmental economists who have seen it as a matter of getting the prices right through the design of economic instruments in sector policy.

However, this is only one side of the story. If we move ‘upstream’ a bit, EPI can also be seen as a process problem. Does public policy decision-making pay adequate attention to its environmental dimensions? A variety of concrete measures of EPI are concerned with this. New mandates are given to sector authorities, inter-departmental working groups and councils are created, and new decision making processes are stipulated.

The Cardiff process, the ‘SEA’ directive, the sector responsibility scheme and strategies for sustainable development are recent attempts to make EPI more concrete, that have come across very real and important challenges. What shapes policy making? Behind such measures are assumptions about what shapes policy making.

The point of departure of the PINTS project is that institutional structures set the stage for EPI. The first step is to understand how, through an institutional performance analysis: In what ways are current structures obstructive or conducive to EPI?

Three dimensions are in focus:

  • The value dimension includes beliefs, norms, traditions, and cultures. Shaped by traditions and legacies they underpin different policy styles and preferences.
  • The organisation dimension includes patterns of interaction between actors, between EU, national and sub-national structures, coalitions and networks, and their capacities, and how these patterns shape policy.
  • The process dimension includes assessment, evaluation-, monitoring- and feedback systems, deliberation, and accounting procedures that feed into the policy system.

These institutional factors might affect integration differently at different stages of the policy process and the process might be meeting criteria for EPI in one stage only to fail miserably in the next stage. Therefore, we will study separately agenda setting, preparation, decision, and implementation. Once we have understood the performance of the current system, a prescriptive analysis follows. What institutional changes are necessary to improve policy integration? This prescriptive part is the key objective of the project, but requires a substantive empirical and theoretical basis.

What about outcomes? Ultimately, EPI processes must be reflected in actual environmental outcomes. This project is somewhat different from many policy studies because it goes beyond the institutional analysis to look at actual outcomes and the aggregated impacts on the environment through a sector environmental analysis.

Does EPI really lead to better outcomes? The sector environmental analysis identifies what aspects of the sector are not performing sustainably and what are key environmental policy challenges, including damages, goal conflicts and culprits as well as victims. To analyse this connection, the project deploys an inter-disciplinary approach that ties together natural and social sciences.

Funder: FORMAS (Forskningsrådet Miljö Areel).