Publicatie Laka-bibliotheek:
Radioactive Waste Disposal at Sea: Public Ideas, Transnational Policy Entrepreneurs, and Environmental Regimes

AuteurLasse Ringius
Classificatie (AFVAL - DUMPEN IN ZEE)

Uit de publicatie:


In this book I seek to narrow the ideational and normative gap in studies
of environmental regimes. I intend to demonstrate that we can improve our
understanding of the dynamics of international environmental regimes con-
siderably by focusing in a systematic way on ideas and ideational factors.
In particular, I document that powerful public ideas and policy entrepre-
neurs can significantly influence the processes of regime formation and
regime change.
   Public ideas are widely accepted ideas about the nature of a societal prob-
lem and about the best way to solve it.1 They are about the welfare of soci-
ety, and therefore they differ from private concerns. By defining how
societal problems are perceived, public ideas shape policy and public debate
about policy. Ideas about which there is societal consensus remain stable
over time, and they differ from ideas that are altered frequently and from
ideas that are promoted by special-interest groups.2 Public ideas are held
by society, not just by individuals, and therefore there is a fundamental dif-
ference between public ideas and individual beliefs.3 Under certain circum-
stances, the interplay of public ideas and transnational4 coalitions of policy
entrepreneurs creates and changes environmental regimes.
   Studies of regime building and regime change in the environmental field
have been concerned predominantly with the use of power, the pursuit of
rational self-interest, and the influence of scientific knowledge. Scholars
have paid far less attention to the role of ideational factors in creating and
changing the principles and norms of environmental regimes. Surprisingly,
the processes by which the norms and principles of regimes are developed
and changed have received little explicit attention, despite widespread agree-
ment among regime analysts that regimes are defined and constituted by
their underlying norms and principles as well as by their rules and decision-
making procedures. Although a growing number of studies of public pol-
icy and of international relations ascribe great significance to ideas and
norms, analysts of environmental regimes pay little attention to ideas
and norms, and their development and significance have not been empiri-
cally documented. Moreover, this neglect of the ideational and normative
aspects of environmental regimes stands in marked contrast to the impor-
tance that politicians, national and international environmental authori-
ties, and environmentalists ascribe to awareness raising, campaigning, and
education in improving environmental protection.
   Since the early 1960s, states have signed numerous international environ-
mental treaties and agreements and have been building environmental
regimes. Initially, regional marine pollution and regional air pollution
attracted most of the political attention that was paid to environmental
problems. A number of regional regimes were created to deal with ocean
dumping, with land-based sources of marine pollution, with acid rain, and
with other environmental issues. In the 1980s and the 1990s, protection of
the stratospheric ozone layer, preservation of biological diversity, and
prevention of global climate change appeared on the international envi-
ronmental agenda, and regimes were created to address such global
environmental issues. By 1992, there were 170 international environmen-
tal agreements and treaties (UNEP 1997).5 States will probably continue to
build regimes and to develop international regulatory machinery for envi-
ronmental protection for the foreseeable future.
   There is no overarching international authority for the protection of the
environment. Nonetheless, regimes may be able to increase cooperation
among countries. According to Krasner (1983, p. 2), “regimes can be defined
as sets of implicit and explicit principles, norms, rules, and decision-making
procedures around which actors’ expectations converge in a given area of
international relations.”6
   How are global environmental regimes created, and by whom? Once cre-
ated, how and by whom are they changed? At first, analysts mostly paid
attention to why and how regimes are initiated and built; less attention was
paid to why and how regimes change and transform. More recent studies
have made greater efforts to analyze the effectiveness of regimes in chang-
ing social behavior and ultimately solving environmental problems. These
studies have started from the assumption that regimes matter, and they have
aimed to identify causal pathways.7 Despite many insightful analyses, there
are still important lessons to be learned about the establishment and the
transformation of environmental regimes.
   Focusing on the global ocean dumping regime and on the developments
in the control of ocean dumping of low-level radioactive waste (commonly
referred to as radwaste disposal) that have taken place under that regime,
I examine the formation and change of the deep normative structure within
which global ocean dumping policy—particularly with regard to radwaste
disposal—has been embedded. The case of the global ocean dumping
regime and radwaste disposal demonstrates the significance of transnational
coalitions of policy entrepreneurs and public ideas in a powerful way. In
particular, it offers an opportunity to examine more carefully the political
construction of a global environmental problem, the role of persuasion and
communication in an international setting, and the formation of interna-
tional public opinion. These themes have not previously been developed
and integrated in regime analysis.
   I do not claim in this book that the influence of ideas (or, as some prefer,
the power of ideas) alone can explain regime development. Policy develop-
ment should not be reduced to just a question of ideas; it is important to
understand how ideas and interests together influence policy. Scholars who
suggest that ideas have a significant independent impact on policy have not
always been sufficiently careful or precise when specifying under what con-
ditions ideas are likely to be influential, why one set of ideas had more force
than another in a given situation, and in what way a particular idea made
a difference. To increase our understanding of the policy influence of ideas,
we therefore need to focus more systematically on key issues: What kinds
of ideas matter? In what way do they influence behavior? In what ways and
by whom are influential ideas transmitted? Through careful examination of
these important issues, the ideational approach to political analysis
improves our understanding of policy initiation and policy development at
the national and the international level. The analytical ambition of regime
analysis should be to integrate ideas and interests, rather than to segregate
them. By focusing on the role of ideas, it seems possible to develop auxil-
iary hypotheses that could supplement better-established theories about
how power and interests influence regimes.
   In this book I hope to show that more attention should be given to how the
interplay of public ideas and policy entrepreneurs influences environmental
regimes. Scholars should carefully distinguish the different paths to regime
establishment, or the distinct processes by which regimes are built, and
should identify the theoretical models that best explain the different paths
to regime establishment. I explore a distinctively ideational type of regime
dynamics. Moreover, I carefully compare power-based, interest-based, and
knowledge-based theories of regimes, and I show that these theories,
despite their many valuable insights, explain neither the formation nor the
change of the global ocean dumping regime satisfactorily. In particular,
prominent regime theories overlook the significance of public ideas and
policy entrepreneurs.8
   Ideas and policy entrepreneurs are combined in complex ways in domes-
tic and international environmental politics. It is well known that environ-
mentalists, ecologists, scientists, experts, and the mass media often can play
significant roles when environmental problems are discovered and needs
for corrective environmental policy are identified. However, it has largely
gone unnoticed, as my study shows, that policy entrepreneurs active inside
governments, government agencies, and international organizations also
are actively involved in discovering global environmental problems, con-
structing and framing global environmental issues, and building environ-
mental regimes. In other words, politicians, public administrators, and
international bureaucrats are not only responding to the pressures of inter-
est groups or just passively following the swings of public opinion. Policy
makers and public administrators may actively discover new societal needs,
create public value, and provide environmental protection and other
national and international public goods.9 In this book I document that
transnational coalitions of policy entrepreneurs can play a major role in
building a regime for the protection of the global environment.
   I also document and analyze a significant process of regime change—in
other words, a fundamental change of a regime’s principles and norms—
that resulted in a major change in international environmental policy.10
Those who expect regimes to have no significant impact on state behavior
would doubt the policy consequence of a regime change. I document that
global environmental nongovernmental organizations (ENGOs) can act as
catalysts for regime change, even when scientists and powerful states sup-
port existing policies. In view of the strong opposition to regime change by
Britain, France, Japan, and the United States and the absence of a scientific
consensus on environmental and human health risks, the regime change
that I document contradicts not only traditional power-based theories that
predict that regime change will only occur in response to changes in the
power and interests of dominant states but also more recent knowledge-
based theories arguing for the power of epistemic communities. Though it
is true that states are the only formally recognized members of regimes,
ENGOs are often de facto members with considerable influence. Finally,
the lack of scientific evidence of damage to humans and the environment
from ocean dumping of radwaste raises an important question: Does this
recent regime development constitute “good”11 and effective or unwise and
negative global environmental policy?

The London Convention and Radwaste Disposal

In this book I investigate the formation and change of the global regime
regulating ocean dumping of wastes, a regime established by the so-called
London Convention of 1972.12 I examine in detail the events that resulted
in the establishment of this environmental regime. I also examine the devel-
opments in the control of radwaste disposal that have taken place under
the regime.
   In 1946 a number of countries began unilaterally disposing of low-level
radioactive waste at sea. Other countries, though concerned about the envi-
ronmental effects of such dumping, failed to halt it. Radwaste disposal con-
tinued after the establishment of the global ocean dumping regime in 1972.
Hence, the regime initially permitted and regulated controlled radwaste dis-
posal, and Britain and the United States (and later France and Japan)
strongly supported this disposal practice. A moratorium temporarily halt-
ing radwaste disposal was imposed in 1983, however, and no official dump-
ing has taken place since then. Agreement on a global ban on radwaste
disposal was reached in 1993. According to an advisor to Greenpeace
International, the decision to prohibit radwaste disposal was “a major step
forward by the world community in making a commitment to protect the
world’s oceans.”13 The 1993 ban is evidence of a recent dramatic change of
the regime—a change from permissive allowance of radwaste disposal to an
emphasis on precaution and prevention.
   Environmental regimes are manifestations of interstate and transnational
cooperation. Keohane (1984, p. 51) has defined cooperation as follows:
“Cooperation occurs when actors adjust their behavior to the actual or
anticipated preferences of others, through a process of policy coordina-
tion.” In this book I examine the global ocean dumping regime and rad-
waste disposal regulation as a case of global environmental regime
formation and regime change. The formation and the transformation of the
global ocean dumping regime—the two most important institutional devel-
opments with respect to global policy for radwaste disposal—are examined
in detail.
   Examining policy development requires a time perspective of at least 10
years.14 In this book I present a longitudinal study of more than 20 years of
policy and institutional development within one environmental issue area.
The primary focus is on political and ideational issues, although attention
is paid to the technical and scientific aspects of ocean dumping and radioac-
tive waste regulation.