‘Public Policy & Governance Beyond Borders’ was the guiding theme of the international conference of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM), held in Brussels on 13-14 July 2017. This fourth post in the series looks at ways to reduce transport emissions via improved governance cooperation.
The APPAM International Conference 2017 lived up to its theme of ‘Public Policy and Governance Beyond Borders’ – not least thanks to the academics, analysts, practitioners and students who joined from all around the world. I had the opportunity to present a paper on ‘Metropolitan Governance Cooperation and CO2 Transport Emission’, which I’m currently working on with Dr. Tatiana Skripka.
From my perspective as a researcher, the Q&A that followed was both engaging and helpful. Much of the discussion looked at how the management of public policy is being challenged by widespread decentralisation. Devolution, in particular, may enhance policy participation at the lowest level of governance, but this creates big challenges for policy implementation. Fragmentation builds up collective action problems that require near-constant interactive troubleshooting between different spheres of authority. Yet going back to a centralised mode of policy implementation is simply not an option. It reminds me of Winston Churchill’s summary of democracy: “the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Devil in the details
Studying 229 metropolitan areas within 16 OECD countries, the paper I presented highlights that cooperation among decentralised and fragmented authorities is a necessity if problems that transcend borders are to be addressed. We found out that in metropolitan areas where independent local governments worked together on transportation, they were able to significantly reduce the levels of carbon transport emissions (CO2 transport emissions). But how can we achieve such cooperation among independent districts, municipalities, metropolitan areas and even regions in the implementation of public policies that transcend boundaries?
Some of the most valuable insights came from Vanessa Leon, who presented on Decentralisation, Governance and Development in Haiti. I share her view that decentralisation helps to ‘localise’ problems and thus drive effective innovations in their solution. Nonetheless, the type of problem matters. There are wicked problems and there are super-wicked problems like climate change which is fraught with complex interdependencies and requires lowering entrenched decentralised boundaries to work together towards a common goal.
More questions than answers
Participation in the 2017 APPAM international conference was an intellectually stimulating experience with thought-provoking deliveries and interactions. The conference created the best and diverse platform to share and build up ideas on a subject that I have a keen interest in.
Though I left with more questions than answers, my experience at APPAM has strengthened my resolve to do more research into policy implementation in the regional and metropolitan context – where issues and/or outcomes of public policy at one level have an impact on the other. In other words, where a full separation of responsibilities and outcomes in policymaking cannot be realised within one jurisdiction, how can we ensure cooperation? Why does cooperation happen in some instances and not others even when we consider similar problems? Is it a matter of rationality or interest?
These questions are now actively guiding my research. Hopefully by the next APPAM International Conference in July at Mexico City, I will be able to present more answers than questions.
The opinions expressed here are the author’s own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.
Flickr / Doron Derek Laor