Managing the Links between Climate, Energy, Water and Food in Europe: The Need for Better Policy Integration and Coordination

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In recent years the threat of climate change has dominated policy discourse. Indeed, in a very short period of time, climate change has moved from near-oblivion in the early 1990s to centre stage in the politics and rhetoric of governments and industry today: the pursuit of a carbon neutral economy is paramount and the quest to develop policies and technologies that will contribute to climate mitigation is on everyone's lips. Almost every government on earth has a climate mitigation strategy albeit with varying degrees of ambition. Thousands of books have been written on the subject, and billions of dollars have been spent on it. In short, the threat is real and action has followed.

Policy-makers, however, have largely failed to see the wider effects of sectoral or thematic policies on other sectors in the economy, and this is made worse when one policy domain acts as a driver for all others. The primacy of climate mitigation and the proliferation of policies to tackle it is a case in point. In particular, policy-makers fail to recognise the inter-linkages and trade-offs between one sector and another, so that the potential “knock-on” effects of policies are not considered in policy formulation. Where this policy fragmentation exists, often positive developments in one sector can result in negative impacts in another. Examples from decades past include: the post-war intensification of agricultural production, especially irrigation, for social and economic gains at the expense of environmental sustainability and efficiency; the removal of trade barriers to enhance trade liberalisation and the consequent rise of globalisation and the impact on societies, economies, culture and language; and the local as well as global environmental effects of the tremendous growth of air travel. Sometimes these knockon effects are positive, sometimes they are negative, but often they are completely unforeseen.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Energy and the Environmental Challenge
    Bringing together eminent Australian, European and Russian experts and practitioners, this volume makes an important contribution to the crucial debates on climate change and energy that will have a profound impact on all our futures. The problems faced by business, scientists, NGOs, policymakers and researchers are multifaceted and complex in nature, so a comprehensive treatment of the subject is best undertaken by a diverse and multi-skilled group. The authors explore different approaches and experiences in securing sustainable energy supplies in Europe and Australia, while heeding the interplay between public policy, science, business and environmental groups. On the threshold of an era of carbon taxing and energy thrift, the views of the authors on the future evolution of our relationship with energy are as insightful as they are thought-provoking.
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