Assessing policy issue interdependencies in environmental governance


The ability to effectively resolve complex environmental problems hinges upon the capacity to address several different challenges in concert. These challenges, what we refer to as policy issues, often relate to one another – they interdepend. Policy issue interdependency has been extensively theorised in the literature, yet few methodological approaches and little empirical evidence exist to translate the concept of policy issue interdependency to the on-the-ground realities facing policy actors in specific cases and contexts. We build from previous studies to develop a methodological procedure that investigates policy issue interdependencies in ways that take into account what measures and possible solutions policy actors have at their disposal in specific cases for specific environmental problems. By applying our methodological procedure to a case of water governance in Sweden, four insights emerged. First, validation by stakeholders confirms that our procedure produces reliable results. Second, we find that many, but certainly not all, policy issues are interdependent. More specifically, different patterns of policy issue interdependencies are associated with the biophysical and the governance spheres, respectively. Third, our results suggest that policy issue interdependencies are most important to consider when the overall level of interdependency is moderate. Last, our study raises new questions about policy actors’ perception of policy issue interdependencies. In particular, a key question for future research would be if reinforcing (win-win) or counteracting (trade-off) interdependencies are easier to comprehend and act on for policy actors.


Link to centre authors: Bodin, Örjan
Publication info: Hedlund, J., Bodin, Ö. & Nohrstedt, D. 2021. Assessing policy issue interdependencies in environmental governance. International Journal of the Commons 15(1), 82-99.