Saturday, September 21, 2013

Experts and environmental law

An important theme that somehow hasn't come up yet on this blog is the place of experts in the history of environmental law. The issue was explored in Susan Owens's article in last year's Journal of Environmental Law, "Experts and the Environment--The UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution 1970-2011". The abstract:
The UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, first appointed in 1970 and abolished in 2011, has been credited with important developments in environmental policy and legislation. This article examines the Commission’s influence in the context of wider questions about expertise and policy formation in modern democratic societies. After presenting a brief biography of the Commission, it sets out four different ways in which the role of expert advisory bodies has been conceptualised. It then examines the circumstances in which the Commission exerted influence and identifies the practices and characteristics that helped build its reputation and enabled it to have effect. Especially significant were its composition as a ‘committee of experts’, its autonomy, its positioning within networks, and its endurance over four, formative decades for environmental policy. The analysis suggests that influence might be best thought of in terms of a continuum of different effects, that advisory bodies can simultaneously perform multiple roles, and that relations between expertise and policy are necessarily both complex and contingent. Finally, some thoughts are offered on the Commission’s demise and on the tensions that have to be negotiated in considering the future of expert advice.

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