Advertisement

Policy Sciences

, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 721–743 | Cite as

Politics of the precautionary principle: assessing actors’ preferences in water protection policy

  • Florence MetzEmail author
  • Karin Ingold
Research Article

Abstract

This paper analyzes the prospects for introducing the precautionary principle in water protection policy. In situations where a problem enters the political agenda and scientific uncertainties remain about causes or effects, political actors can justify state intervention based on the precautionary principle. It allows for public action even if risks related to the problem remain unclear. While the precautionary principle is widely applied in health and environmental policy fields all over the world, the mechanisms leading to its adoption are not fully understood. To close this gap, the paper investigates decision-makers preferences for the precautionary principle and further asks: Which factors promote political actors’ preferences for precautionary policy measures? In order to answer this question we study the case of emerging micropollutants—a water quality issue that recently entered political agendas, where many uncertainties remain about sources and effects. We rely on data gathered through a standardized survey among the political elite in Switzerland, which represents one of the first countries that adopted policy measures to reduce micropollutants in water bodies, despite the uncertainties that remain. Results analyzed through a temporal network autocorrelation model reveal that actors embedded in collaborative governance arrangements have the tendency to prefer precautionary action. Certain aspects of policy design, such as problem prioritization and target group membership, also impact the prospects for introducing the precautionary principle.

Keywords

Precautionary principle Water protection policy Uncertainties Micropollutants Policy preferences Network modeling 

Notes

Acknowledgement

This work was suppported by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The authors would like to thank Laurence Brandenberger for her advice.

References

  1. Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1980). Understanding attitudes and predicting social behavior. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  2. Andersen, M. S. (2001). Economic instruments and clean water: Why institutions and policy design matter. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  3. Baumgartner, F., & Jones, B. (1993). Agendas and instability in american politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bickerstaff, K., & Walker, G. (2001). Public understandings of air pollution: The ‘localisation’ of environmental risk. Global Environmental Change, 11(2), 133–145. doi: 10.1016/S0959-3780(00)00063-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burkhardt-Holm, P., Peter, A., & Segner, H. (2002). Decline of fish catch in Switzerland Project Fishnet: A balance between analysis and synthesis. Aquatic Sciences, 64(1), 36-54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cairney, P. (2016). The politics of evidence-based policymaking. London: Palgrave McMillan.Google Scholar
  7. Choi, B., Pang, T., Lin, V., Puska, P., Sherman, G., Goddard, M., et al. (2005). Can scientists and policy makers work together? Journal of Epistemic Community and Health, 59, 632–637. doi: 10.1136/jech.2004.031765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Christoforou, T. (2003). The precautionary principle and democratizing expertise: A European legal perspective. Science and Public Policy, 30(3), 205–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Christoforou, T. (2004). The regulation of genetically modified organisms in the European Union: The interplay of science, law and politics. Common Market Law Review, 41(3), 637–709.Google Scholar
  10. Cleven, C. D., Howard, A. S., Little, J. L., & Yu, K. (2013). Identifying “known unknowns” in commercial products by mass spectrometry. LCGC Chromatography Online, 31(2), 114–125.Google Scholar
  11. Crona, B., & Parker, J. (2012). Learning in support of governance: Theories, methods, and a framework to assess how bridging organizations contribute to adaptive resource governance. Ecology and Society, 17(1), 32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Culpepper, P. D. (2011). Quiet politics and business power. Corporate control in Europe and Japan (Cambridge studies in comparative politics). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Daughton, C. G. (2004). Non-regulated water contaminants: Emerging research. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 24(7–8), 711–732. doi: 10.1016/j.eiar.2004.06.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dermont, C., Ingold, K., Kammermann, L., & Stadelmann-Steffen, I. (2017). Bringing the policy making perspective in: A political science approach to social acceptance. Energy Policy, 108, 359–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dietz, T., Ostrom, E., & Stern, P. C. (2003). The struggle to govern the commons. Science, 302(5652), 1907–1912. doi: 10.1126/science.1091015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Doris, D. (2007). Voluntary approaches to environmental problems: Exploring the rise of nontraditional public policy. Policy Studies Journal, 35(2), 165–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. EC. (2000). Communication from the Commission on the precautionary principle COM (2000) 1 final. Brussels: European Commission.Google Scholar
  18. Edelenbos, J., van Buuren, A., & van Schie, N. (2011). Co-producing knowledge: Joint knowledge production between experts, bureaucrats and stakeholders in Dutch water management projects. Environmental Science & Policy, 14, 675–684.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fischer, M. (2014). Coalition structures and policy change in a consensus democracy. Policy Studies Journal, 42(3), 344–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fischer, M., & Leifeld, P. (2015). Policy forums as intermediary institutions: Why do they exist and what are they good for? Policy Sciences, 48(3), 363–382. doi: 10.1007/s11077-015-9224-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fisher, E. (2002). Precaution, precaution everywhere: Developing a “common understanding” of the precautionary principle in the European Union. Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law, 9(1), 7–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Franzen, A., & Vogl, D. (2013). Two decades of measuring environmental attitudes: A comparative analysis of 33 countries. Global Environmental Change, 23(5), 1001–1008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Funtowicz, S., & Ravetz, J. (1993). The emergence of post-normal science. In R. von Schomberg (Ed.), Science, politics and morality: Scientific uncertainty and decision-making. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  24. Goggin, M., Bowman, A., Lester, J., & O’Toole, L. (1990). Implementation theory and practice: Toward a third generation. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Little, Brown.Google Scholar
  25. Götz, C., Kase, R., & Hollender, J. (2010). Mikroverunreinigungen—Beurteilungskonzept für organische Spurenstoffe aus kommunalem Abwasser. Studie im Autrag des BAFU. Dübendorf: Eawag.Google Scholar
  26. Henry, A. D. (2011). Ideology, power, and the structure of policy networks. Policy Studies Journal, 39(3), 361–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hollender, J., Singer, H., & McArdell, C. (2008). Polar organic micropollutants in the water cycle. In P. Hlavinek, O. Bonacci, J. Marsalek, & I. Mahrikova (Eds.), Dangerous pollutants (xenobiotics) in urban water cycle (pp. 103–116). Dodrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Howlett, M. (2009). Governance modes, policy regimes and operational plans: A multi-level nested model of policy instrument choice and policy design. Policy Science, 42, 73–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Howlett, M. (2014). From the ‘old’ to the ‘new’ policy design: Design thinking beyond markets and collaborative governance. Policy Sciences, 47(3), 187–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. ICES. (1993). Report of the working group on methods of fish stock assessment. Copenhagen: International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.Google Scholar
  31. Innes, J., & Booher, D. (2003). Collaborative policymaking: Governance through dialogue. Deliberative policy analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Jones, B., & Baumgartner, F. (2005). The politics of attention: How government prioritizes problems. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  33. Jordan, A. (2001). The precautionary principle in the European Union. In T. O’Riordan, J. Cameron, & A. Jordan (Eds.), Reinterpreting the precautionary principle (pp. 143–162). London: Cameron May.Google Scholar
  34. Klinke, A., & Renn, O. (2002). A new approach to risk evaluation and management: Risk-based, precaution-based, and discourse-based strategies. Risk Analysis, 22(6), 1071–1094.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Knoepfel, P., & Bättig, C. (2007). Environmental policy analyses: Learning from the Past for the future—25 Years of research. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  36. Knoke, D. (1994). Networks of elite structure and decision making. In S. Wasserman & J. Galaskiewicz (Eds.), Advances in social network analysis: Research in the social and behavioral sciences (pp. 274–295). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Knoke, D., Pappi, F. U., Broadbent, J., & Tsujinaka, Y. (1996). Comparing policy networks. Labor politics in the U.S., Germany, and Japan. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Koppenjan, J. F. M., & Klijn, E.-H. (2004). Managing uncertainties in networks: A network approach to problem solving and decision making. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Landry, R., & Varone, F. (2005). The choice of policy instruments: Confronting the deductive and the interactive approaches. In F. P. Eliadis, M. M. Hill, & M. Howlett (Eds.), Designing government. From instruments to governance (pp. 106–131). Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Laumann, E., Marsden, P., & Prensky, D. (1983). The boundary specification problem in network analysis. In R. Burt & M. Minor (Eds.), Applied network analysis: A methodological introduction. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  41. Leach, W., Neil, P., & Sabatier, P. (2002). Stakeholder partnerships as collaborative policymaking: Evaluation criteria applied in watershed management in California and Washington. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 21(4), 645–670.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Leach, W., Weible, C., Vince, S., Siddiki, S., & Calanni, J. (2014). Fostering learning through collaboration: Knowledge acquisition and belief change in marine aquaculture partnerships. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 24(3), 591–622. doi: 10.1093/jopart/mut011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Leifeld, P., & Cranmer, S. (2016). TNAM: Temporal network autocorrelation models. R Package Version 1.6.2. https://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/tnam/index.html.
  44. Lubell, M. (2004). Collaborative environmental institutions: All talk and no action? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 23(3), 549–573. doi: 10.1002/pam.20026.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Manson, N. A. (2002). Formulating the precautionary principle. Environmental Ethics, 24(3), 263–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mayntz, R. (1979). Public bureaucracies and policy implementation. International Social Science Journal, 31(4), 633–645.Google Scholar
  47. Metz, F., & Fischer, M. (2016). Policy diffusion in the context of international river basin management. Environmental Policy and Governance, 26(4), 257–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Metz, F., & Ingold, K. (2014). Sustainable wastewater management: Is it possible to regulate micropollution in the future by learning from the past? A policy analysis. Sustainability, 6(4), 1992–2012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Morris, J. (2000). Defining the precautionary principle. In J. Morris (Ed.), Rethinking risk and the precautionary principle (pp. 1–21). Oxford: Butterworth-Heinmann.Google Scholar
  50. Müller, M. S. (2011). Polar organic micro-pollutants in the River Rhine: Multi-compound screening and mass flux studies of selected substances. Berlin: Eawag, Technische Universität Berlin Dübendorf.Google Scholar
  51. Myers, N. J., & Raffensperger, C. (2006). Precautionary tools for reshaping environmental policy. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  52. Nelson, T. (2004). Policy goals, public rhetoric, and political attitudes. Journal of Politics, 66(2), 581–605. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2508.2004.00165.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Norton, B. (2005). Sustainability: A philosophy of adaptive ecosystem management. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Nowotny, H., Scott, P., & Gibbons, M. (2001). Re-thinking science: Knowledge and the public in an age of uncertainty. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  55. O’Riordan, T., & Cameron, J. (1994). Interpreting the precautionary principle. Abingdon-on-Thames: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  56. O’Toole, L. J. (2000). Research on policy implementation: assessment and prospects. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 10(2), 263–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Prakash, A., & Potoski, M. (2013). Global private regimes, domestic public law: ISO 14001 and pollution reduction. Comparative Political Studies, 47(3), 369–394. doi: 10.1177/0010414013509573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. R Development Core Team. (2014). R: A language and environment for statistical computing (Version 3.1.2 ed.). Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.Google Scholar
  59. Resnik, D. (2003). Is the precautionary principle unscientific? Studies in the History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 34, 329–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Resnik, D. (2004). The precautionary principle and medical decision making. Journal of Medicine and Philisophy, 29(3), 281–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Richardson, S., & Ternes, T. (2011). Water analysis: Emerging contaminants and current issues. Analytical Chemistry, 83(12), 4614–4648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Rockstrom, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., Persson, A., Chapin, F. S., Lambin, E. F., et al. (2009). A safe operating space for humanity. Nature, 461(7263), 472–475. doi: 10.1038/461472a.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Sandin, P. (1999). Dimensions of the precautionary principle. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal, 5(5), 889–907. doi: 10.1080/10807039991289185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Schwarzenbach, R., Escher, B., Fenner, K., Hofstetter, T., Johnson, A., Von Gunten, U., et al. (2006). The challenge of micropollutants in aquatic systems. Science, 313(5790), 1072–1077.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Scott, T. (2015). Does collaboration make any difference? Linking collaborative governance to environmental outcomes. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 34(3), 537–566. doi: 10.1002/pam.21836.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Scott, J., & Vos, E. (2002). The juridification of uncertainty: Observations on the ambivalence of the precautionary principle within the EU and the WTO. In C. Joerges & R. Dehousse (Eds.), Good governance in Europe’s integrated market (pp. 253–286). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. UNEP. (1992). 1992 Rio declaration on environment and development. In U. N. E. Programme (Ed.), UN Doc. A/CONF.151/26 (Vol. I). Rio de Janeiro: UNEP.Google Scholar
  68. van Asselt, M., & Vos, E. (2006). The precautionary principle and the uncertainty paradox. Journal of Risk Research, 9(4), 313–336. doi: 10.1080/13669870500175063.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Vogel, J. (2004). Tunnel vision: The regulation of endocrine disruptors. Policy Sciences, 37, 277–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Von der Ohe, P. C., Dulio, V., Slobodnik, J., Deckere, E. D., Kühne, R., Ebert, R.-U., et al. (2011). A new risk assessment approach for the prioritization of 500 classical and emerging organic microcontaminants as potential river basin specific pollutants under the European Water Framework Directive. Science of the Total Environment, 409(11), 2064–2077.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Voss, J.-P., Smith, A., & Grin, J. (2009). Designing long-term policy: Rethinking transition management. Policy Sciences, 42, 275–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Weible, C. M., & Sabatier, P. A. (2009). Coalitions, science, and belief change: Comparing adversarial and collaborative policy subsystems. Policy Studies Journal, 37(2), 195–212. doi: 10.1111/j.1541-0072.2009.00310.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wiener, J., & Rogers, M. (2002). Comparing precaution in the United States and Europe. Journal of Risk Research Policy, 5(4), 317–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Political ScienceUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Oeschger Centre for Climate Change ResearchUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Social SciencesSwiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)DübendorfSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations