Does problem complexity matter for environmental policy delivery? How public authorities address problems of water governance

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Problem complexity is often assumed to hamper effective environmental policy delivery. However, this claim is hardly substantiated, given the dominance of qualitative small-n designs in environmental governance research. We studied 37 types of contemporary problems defined by German water governance to assess the impact of problem complexity on policy delivery through public authorities. The analysis is based on a unique data set related to these problems, encompassing both in-depth interview- based data on complexities and independent official data on policy delivery. Our findings show that complexity in fact tends to delay implementation at the stage of planning. However, different dimensions of complexity (goals, variables, dynamics, interconnections, and uncertainty) impact on the different stages of policy delivery (goal formulation, stages and degrees of implementation) in various ways.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 01.07.2017

    Research areas

  • Sustainability Science - Complex problem solving, Complex problems, Diffuse source pollution, Point source pollution, Water Framework Directive, Wicked problems
  • Politics