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Interplay management: enhancing environmental policy integration among international institutions

Abstract

This article investigates how and to what extent the current management of inter-institutional relationships within International Environmental Governance (‘interplay management’) contributes to Environmental Policy Integration (EPI), and identifies options for enhancing EPI among international institutions. To this end, it first develops a framework for the systematic analysis and assessment of interplay management as a means for achieving ‘strong’ EPI, distinguishing four levels and two principal modes of management. On this basis, the article assesses the current contribution of International Environmental Governance to advancing EPI as regards three categories of institutional interaction. The analysis demonstrates the need to fit interplay management to the particular governance conditions of varying interaction situations and highlights the lack of systematic and consistent support for EPI among international institutions. Options to improve this situation include in particular promoting inter-institutional learning and assistance for the benefit of environmental institutions as well as ensuring consideration of and respect for environmental requirements. Adapting the statutes and mandates of individual institutions and developing suitable guidance under general international (environmental) law have the highest potential for implementing these options. In contrast, joint management initiatives and a strengthened international environmental organisation have a much more limited, supplementary potential.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Both terms will be used interchangeably throughout this article.

  2. 2.

    The category of disruptive institutional interaction as introduced here refers to both disruptive “interaction through commitment” and related “behavioural interaction”; see Gehring and Oberthür 2006, 2009. Assessing the compatibility of the objectives of international institutions requires taking into account that these objectives are socially constructed. For example, many objectives such as advancing international trade (WTO) are not necessarily per se in contradiction to environmental objectives pursued by MEAs. Objectives diverge as defined by actors under present circumstances (technologies, interest definitions, etc.). With the evolution of these circumstances, objectives currently construed to be in tension may well develop towards compatibility (and vice versa).

  3. 3.

    Social learning processes that may support deep changes of underlying interest definitions and a reinterpretation of previously diverging objectives require long time horizons and need to extend far beyond the remit of the members of international institutions.

  4. 4.

    This category of interaction refers to two types of “interaction through commitment” (“nested institutions” and “additional means”) and related “behavioural interaction”; see Gehring and Oberthür 2006, 2009.

  5. 5.

    Improved knowledge and awareness can provide important support for maximising synergy in the regulatory design (although opponents may admittedly also ‘learn’ that they should oppose effective rules even more vigorously). For example, different design options for the aforementioned preferential trade tariffs for environmental technology exist within the WTO, which are likely to differ as to the extent to which they would support the implementation of the climate change regime and other MEAs (Charnovitz 2003).

  6. 6.

    Information of this kind may feed into requests for assistance from other institutions, as occurred when CITES requested the WCO to adapt its customs codes (see Sect. 3.1). This inter-institutional learning mechanism (cognitive interaction) may thus trigger inter-institutional assistance (interaction among overlapping institutions).

  7. 7.

    Relevant requirements include: (1) international environmental institutions to systematically screen other institutions for useful models and for their potential to assist in implementing the own objectives; (2) all institutions to (a) consider requests of environmental institutions and exploit any potential for assisting them, (b) conduct environmental impact assessments and to consult with relevant environmental institutions prior to taking decisions with significant environmental impact, (c) give priority to (certain) environmental objectives, and (d) secure approval of relevant environmental institutions prior to taking decisions with significant environmental impact.

Abbreviations

CITES:

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

EPI:

Environmental Policy Integration

IEG:

International Environmental Governance

MEA:

Multilateral Environmental Agreement

OECD:

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development

UNEP:

United Nations Environment Programme

WCO:

World Customs Organisation

WEO:

World Environment Organisation

WTO:

World Trade Organisation

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Acknowledgments

The author gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Union’s 6th Research Framework Programme, under Grant No. 02866, EPIGOV (“Environmental Policy Integration and Multi-Level Governance”). The article has benefitted from discussions of earlier versions at the 2008 Berlin Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change (22–23 February 2008), the third EPIGOV Conference held in Stockholm from 12 to 13 June 2008, and the Second Global International Studies Conference (WISC) held in Ljubljana from 23 to 26 July 2008. I am furthermore indebted to Claire Roche Kelly for her assistance and to Olav Schram Stokke, Måns Nilsson, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. The article also constitutes a contribution to the research project “Governance through Regulatory Complexes” funded by the Research Foundation—Flanders (FWO).

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Oberthür, S. Interplay management: enhancing environmental policy integration among international institutions. Int Environ Agreements 9, 371 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10784-009-9109-7

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Keywords

  • Environmental Policy Integration
  • International Environmental Governance
  • Institutional interaction
  • Institutional interplay
  • International environmental policy
  • International institutions
  • Interplay management
  • Multilateral Environmental Agreements