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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Environmental Policy (PGSP11313)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Course typeStandard AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) Credits15
Home subject areaPostgrad (School of Social and Political Studies) Other subject areaNone
Course website None Taught in Gaelic?No
Course descriptionThis course demonstrates how the general themes of the MPP programme, regarding economic, political and international aspects of public policy, can be applied in a central and increasingly important area of government intervention: the environment. The course examines the application of these themes to four key sets of environmental issues: water resources and quality; energy; materials and waste; and air pollution.

The course focuses on the issues, processes and challenges from the perspective of policy practitioners, and will include talks from representatives of a range of organisations on their experiences. The focus is not on technical explanations of environmental phenomena ¿ the systems of production and resource exploitation and the science of their environmental impacts ¿ but on how we can best understand and influence their treatment. The course does however provide the necessary background at a level appropriate to non-specialists. Nor is the intention of the course to provide training in the techniques of assessment and policy- or decision-making. Rather, the aim is to develop a familiarity with these techniques, to evaluate them critically, to understand their role and the implications of their use, and to consider how they should be deployed. Specifically, this course focusses on:

¿ the institutions that contribute to environmental problems and those that govern responses to the problems
¿ the forms of intervention they take ¿ policies, strategies, support and regulation
¿ the characteristic issues involved in debating and formulating responses
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs None
Course Delivery Information
Delivery period: 2013/14 Semester 2, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Learn enabled:  Yes Quota:  None
Web Timetable Web Timetable
Course Start Date 13/01/2014
Breakdown of Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 150 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 3, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 147 )
Additional Notes
Breakdown of Assessment Methods (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
1. On successful completion of the course students will have demonstrated through written work, oral presentations and other contributions in class, that they:

¿ have a substantive knowledge and understanding of a selection of important environmental issues and of the governance institutions at all levels relevant to them, including their interrelation;

2. ¿ can identify and characterise key approaches and concepts from social science disciplines and interdisciplinary fields to understanding and evaluating environmental governance institutions and their contexts, and identify advantages, problems and implications of these analytical approaches;
¿ in particular, can apply and reflect on key concepts and insights from the generic core courses in the MPP;

3. ¿ can derive practical implications from analytical insights and translate them into guidance for practitioners;
¿ can critically evaluate contributions to academic and public debates on environmental issues, and decisions on them;

4. ¿ can identify and evaluate a selection of techniques and procedures used in environmental policy analysis, decision-making and assessment;
5. ¿ can apply these understandings and skills, and deploy some of these approaches and concepts, in analysing a new environmental issue or a new governance institution, and in devising, evaluating and justifying governance options;
¿ have developed their skills in finding and using arguments and information; in critically evaluating such material; and in writing and seminar presentation.
Assessment Information
Assessment will be by coursework:
Midcourse presentation and 1000-word summary: 20%
Week 10 policy brief presentation: 25%
Essay: 50%
Special Arrangements
Additional Information
Academic description Not entered
Syllabus Week 1: Introduction: environmental problems, sustainability and sustainable development
Topics addressed: historical review of development of environmental problems, consciousness, movements and responses; contested conceptions and principles of sustainability and sustainable development; introduction to issues in case study areas: water resources and quality; energy; materials and waste; and air pollution

This session provides substantive and conceptual background, outlines the range of disciplinary and practical perspectives that will need to be addressed, and indicates how the insights and practical guidance from previous MPP courses will need to be applied to this area.

Week 2: Environmental policy contexts and institutions
Topics addressed: environmental management and governance; economics of environmental issues and its influence on governance; environmental cultures; pioneers and laggards

This session examines the relation of environmental problems and their treatment to the context of natural systems, production and consumption in the industrialised economies, and their governance. It explores the variety and complexity of the influences shaping goals and responses, and focusses particularly on the varied organisation of those responses and their cultural bases as expressed in environmental discourses.

Case study: creation and management of air pollution

Week 3: Understanding systems, impacts and innovation
Topics addressed: environmental problems and solutions as sociotechnical systems; innovation in environmental technologies; entrenchment and lock-in; stimulating end-of-pipe or clean production responses

This session stresses the need to examine the generation of environmental impacts in production and consumption practices, and their treatment through changes in those, as aspects of sociotechnical systems, requiring an understanding of the roles and complex interrelations of physical processes, organisation, governance, knowledge and cultures.

Case study: waste generation and management as a sociotechnical system, and the design of regulation and support mechanisms to drive appropriate innovation

Week 4: Multi-level governance for the environment
Topics addressed: International, European, national and local environmental policy processes: roles, responsibilities and relations of agencies; environmental justice ¿ global and local distribution of environmental impacts

This session examines the hierarchy of environmental governance, the intended and actual relations between different levels, and how these affect the character and efficacy of policy and strategy.

Case study: local and national government responses to air pollution

Week 5: Legal and regulatory frameworks and instruments
Topics addressed: governance objectives and instruments; market mechanisms and self-regulation; evaluating the efficacy and efficiency of instruments

This session considers the wide range of instruments available for the governance of environmental issues, the reasons for their selection and combination, patterns and trends in their use, and how they should be evaluated. It considers in particular the combination used in many environmental areas of umbrella legislation, market mechanisms and forms of control other than emission limits and penalties.

Case study: implementing the EU Water Framework Directive

Week 6: Key actors: experts, movements, NGOs
Topics addressed: experts and professions; social movements and political action; community environmental activism

This session examines the varied actors that operate outside and through the state and the channels through which they influence debates and decisions. It considers the roles they have in political processes on environmental issues and how public agencies interact with them.

Case Study: opposition to onshore wind power / new coal-fired power stations

Week 7: Environmental assessment and planning
Topics addressed: environmental impact assessment: processes, techniques, roles; local and national planning processes as sites of environmental decisions

This session examines the process and role of EIA, now institutionalised as a major means of managing environmental damage. Students will develop familiarity with key assessment techniques, and consider criticisms of their limitations and implications.

Case study: EIA for a major energy infrastructure project, e.g. Beauly-Denny

Week 8: Risk assessment and management
Topics addressed: futures work and risk frameworks; safety decisions and criteria; explaining accidents

This session examines the now pervasive understanding of future events, in policy and popular contexts, in terms of risk, and how this conceptual and strategic framework shapes responses to environmental problems. Students will enhance their understanding of assessment techniques, and consider criticisms of their limitations and implications.

Case study: risk assessment of energy systems

Week 9: Knowledge, controversy and uncertainty
Topics addressed: evidence and argument in environmental decisions; quantification and unquantifiables; sustainability criteria; understanding environmental controversies and their resolution; uncertainty, burden of proof and precautionary approaches

This session aims to develop an understanding of the different forms of knowledge deployed in evaluation and decision-making, the dynamics of controversies, and their implications for decision-makers. In particular it examines arguments for different ways of handling uncertainty.

Case study: recycling, incineration and dioxins

Week 10: Public responses to environmental issues
Topics addressed: public understanding and bases of responses; consultation and involvement; media treatments of environmental issues

This session examines the closely related concerns of public responses to environmental issues, projects and management schemes, and of public involvement in decisions on them. Authorities are under increased obligations and expectations to allow wider consultation and engagement, but have responded in different ways and with widely differing success. At the same time, there is profound disagreement among analysts over what shapes the understanding and responses of wider audiences and how these might be influenced through education and deliberation.

Case study: water recycling and public opposition or compliance with waste recycling schemes

Week 11: Conclusion: governance for transitions to sustainability
Topics addressed: dynamics of sectoral transitions; stimulating and managing transitions; social learning processes and strategies

This session considers what is entailed in shifting key sectors towards a more sustainable basis, the required changes in infrastructure, organisation, governance, understanding and practice at all levels, whether and how such a transition can consciously be brought about, and particularly how strategies should be designed to deal with continuing uncertainties and the emergent character of new sociotechnical systems.

Case study: strategies for the energy sector in different European countries.
Transferable skills Not entered
Reading list - J Barry, Environment and Social Theory, 2nd ed., Routledge, London, 2007
- S Beder, Environmental Principles and Policies, Earthscan, London, 2006
- N Carter, The Politics of the Environment: Ideas, Activism, Policy, 2nd ed., CUP, Cambridge, 2007
- J Connelly & G Smith, Politics and the Environment: from Theory to Practice, Routledge, London, 1999
- S Dovers, Environment and Sustainability Policy: Creation, Implementation, Evaluation, Federation Press, Sydney, 2005
¿ B Elling, Rationality and the Environment: Decision-Making in Environmental Politics and Assessment, Earthscan, London, 2010
¿ R Gibson et al., Sustainabilty Assessment: Criteria and Processes, Earthscan, London, 2005
¿ R Harding et al., Environmental Decision-Making: Exploring Complexity and Context, Federation Press, Sydney, 2009
¿ S Jasanoff & ML Martello (eds.), Earthly Politics: Local and Global in Environmental Governance, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2004
¿ A Jordan, Environmental Policy in the European Union: Actors, Institutions and Processes, 2nd ed., Earthscan, London, 2005
¿ CA Miller & PN Edwards (eds.), Changing the Atmosphere: Expert Knowledge and Environmental Governance, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2001
¿ T Parminter, Environmental Policy Design: Three Different Theoretical Perspectives, Lambert Academic, Saarbrücken, 2009
¿ J Roberts, Environmental Policy, Routledge, London, 2010
¿ RN Stavins (ed.), The Political Economy of Environmental Regulation, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, 2004
¿ J-P Voss, et al. (eds.), Reflexive Governance for Sustainable Development (Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, 2006
¿ S Yearley, The Green Case: a Sociology of Environmental Issues, Harper Collins Academic, London, 1991
Study Abroad Not entered
Study Pattern Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Graham Spinardi
Tel: (0131 6)50 6394
Course secretaryMrs Lindsay Adams
Tel: (0131 6)50 3315
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