Environmental Policy in the UK and Germany

Charles Lees

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This study examines developments within environmental policy making in the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany and is examined along three dimensions: (i) the historical context; (ii) policy instruments and discourses; and (iii) policy outcomes. In empirical terms it asks, first, can we identify patterns of convergence and/or divergence along these three dimensions between the two countries and, second, to what extent does the European integration process impact upon these patterns? The second question is particularly useful in a comparative context because it also serves to enhance our understanding of the scope and scale of the processes of Europeanisation and policy transfer within the United Kingdom, Germany and, by inference, further afield. In theoretical terms it uses an historical institutionalist framework within which to build the analysis.

The historical institutionalist approach is useful because it provides a macro-level theoretical lens which makes it possible to both embed and problematise the meso-level concepts of ‘Europeanisation’ and ‘policy transfer’. The mechanics of these two concepts are expanded upon elsewhere in this volume. However, let us clarify the study's use of the concept of Europeanisation at this point. There is a lively debate within the literature as to whether Europeanisation is a ‘top-down’ or ‘bottom-up’ process and this debate also touches on the role of intervening variables (nation-specific norms, standard operating procedures) in the process.1 It is beyond the scope of this essay to engage with these debates. It is, however, useful to point out that although reference is made to a bottom-up conception of Europeanisation – for instance, with regard to the uploading to the European Union level of German regulatory practices in the 1980s – the study gives more weight to a top-down conception of the process. There are two reasons for this. First, because the top-down approach explicitly places member states as the ‘receivers’ of Europeanisation, it provides a better framework for concentrating on a comparison of policy practices in the United Kingdom and Germany. Second, the top-down approach complements the historical institutionalist framework in that it requires some degree of institutional ‘misfit’ at the member state level to exert the adaptational pressures for Europeanisation to occur. Again, this allows us to concentrate upon institutional settings in the United Kingdom and Germany. At the same time, however, the study is responsive to criticisms of the top-down approach found in the literature and places significant weight on intervening variables that determine the scope and scale of Europeanisation.2 This emphasis on intervening variables in the process of Europeanisation ties in with debates surrounding the nature of policy transfer and the more recent and less developed idea of ‘policy resistance’.3 But in order to engage with these concepts, the study first sets out the historical context of environmental policy making in the United Kingdom and Germany.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-183
Number of pages20
JournalGerman Politics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • environmental policy
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • analysis


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