Environmental policy implementation and learning in water governance

In this PhD research the focus is on river restoration related to hydropower production in the EU, Sweden and the USA as well as climate change adaptation of urban water services in Sweden.

We are currently facing unprecedented global environmental challenges that include climate change and biodiversity loss. These challenges have been met with a significant environmental policy formulation at all scales that has not always led to equally significant actions and measures meant to mitigate the causes of environmental degradation. It can therefore be argued that, on a general level, environmental policy implementation during the last decades has not been as successful as environmental policy formulation.

Among a large section of policymakers and academia there is an important interest in using different types of learning processes, aimed at both the public and key stakeholders, to further the implementation of environmental policies and move society towards increased sustainability. Traditional hierarchical methods for ensuring environmental policy implementation have, for various reasons, received less attention.

By comparing different cases of water governance with ranging and contrasting policy, institutional and actor settings, the aim of this PhD project is to discern to what extent learning, understood as part of network mechanisms of governance, provide a viable alternative to hierarchical forms of environmental policy implementation in the examined cases of water governance. Based on existing literature on policy implementation and social learning, insights from the cases are also used to form analytical generalizations of the viability of learning, compared to hierarchy, as a form of environmental policy implementation more broadly.