The changing environmental policy context for local action
This chapter examines the environmental policy context for attempts to integrate economic development and the environment at the local level. As with the economic policy context outlined in Chapter 2, this creates both opportunities for, and barriers to, local level actions. In certain cases it may provide some element of legitimation for local areas in nation-states which have limited national environmental policy initiatives. This was a particular feature in the UK in the 1980s and early 1990s, where local authorities used both international and European Union (EU) environmental policy to legitimate their activities in the face of a hostile, or at best indifferent, central government. The 1992 United Nations Earth Summit was a key event in this context. As Blowers (1994: 169) indicates ‘the broader international context . . . increasingly sets the parameters for policy-making at subsidiary national and regional levels’. The Earth Summit provided the momentum for local actors in some countries to develop their own environmental agendas by reference back to this international agreement. This chapter deals specifically with environmental policies, as opposed to providing a review of all policies that have an environmental impact. Attempting such an overview is beyond the scope of this book, as it would necessitate a detailed study of international and national policy across a broad range of areas, such as fiscal, social and development policies. Rather, the aim of the chapter is to provide an obverse view to Chapter 2 through examining environmental policy with a view to its consequences for economic development at the local scale. I begin with an overview of the main international agreements on the environment in recent years, then proceed to an examination of policy within the European Union. EU environmental policy perhaps represents the most detailed attempt to shift patterns of economic development onto a more environmentally aware basis at the supranational level and, both because of and despite its flaws, is worth examining in some detail. Finally, I outline varying policy contexts within such differing nation-states as the
USA, Japan, Australia, Sweden and the United Kingdom, both as an examination of national policies in their own right, but also to place the scope for local level action in context.