This study examines two challenges related to the integration of environmental concerns into public policy-making: how to shape institutions that facilitate policy learning in national policy-making processes, and how to create effective supporting assessment processes.

A simple construct of policy learning is applied empirically, distinguishing what is learned in terms of conceptual and technical learning, and unpacking the process of learning into three elements: knowledge acquisition, interpretation and institutionalization.

Two empirical policy cases, climate and nuclear policy formation in Sweden, are analysed over two decades, detecting patterns of learning and investigating what institutions have facilitated or obstructed them. The analysis is based on a study of actual policy outputs, an examination of reasoning and argumentation in policy documents, and evidence from testimonial interviews.

Results indicate that climate policy has undergone fundamental learning processes whereas nuclear policy has been more intractable. Most learning has occurred in some agency and committee processes, while ministries and political levels have suffered from weak capacities and incentives to learn.

Key drivers of learning included trust building among key agents coupled to international driving forces. Ultimately, institutional rules, capacities, and incentives are more important factors for enhancing learning than what types of assessments feed in.