Title: Environmental policy implementation through learning: insights from river restoration and adaptation of urban water services
There is evidence on an EU level that an identified “implementation gap” of environmental policies has been connected to classic forms of hierarchical regulation and intervention and that there has been a shift towards more market and network governance modes to further the implementation of EU environmental policies. This thesis contends that it is still an open question to what extent and under what conditions market and network modes of governance enhance the implementation of environmental policies compared to hierarchical modes of governance. Given this context, this thesis analyzes learning – an integral part of network modes of governance – and attempts to investigate to what extent, and under what circumstances it constitutes an effective alternative to hierarchical forms of governance. The effectiveness of learning and hierarchical policy instruments are evaluated in four cases of water governance by comparing ex-ante policy expectations with policy outcomes - the changes induced by the policy instruments on the target groups of the policy. The level of ambiguity and conflict related to the policy, as well as existing institutions (legislation), are treated as key variables of implementation and the thesis tests to what extent they can explain for varying implementation effectiveness of learning and hierarchy policy instruments in the examined cases. The thesis uses a general conflict ambiguity model of policy implementation (created by Matland 1995) as well as the concepts of “shadow hierarchy” and “stakeholder interdependence” to explore the extent the thesis cases provide a basis for generalizations of the effectiveness of learning, compared to hierarchy, as a form of environmental policy implementation more broadly.