Policy Development

Enhancing policy development

The debate about uncertainties and risks in Global Climate Change is taking place at different levels, from policy and decision making to various scientific disciplines. To take this diversity of viewpoints into account, we distinguish two levels of judgments: policy-making in a strict sense, and executive decision-making (Vickers 1965). Policy-making is a process of appreciation that links two types of judgment: a judgment of facts and a judgment on the significance of these facts for the appreciator (policy actor). Executive decision-making is based on instrumental judgment. It refers to technical issues of carrying out policies, of finding the right instruments. It focuses primarily on maintaining or realizing over time a complex pattern of relationships based on standards, targets and timetables, constraints or crash barriers, which have been designed as governing relationships.

The development of an international climate policy builds on national policy perspectives. These are dependent on the perceived risks of climate change, the socio-economic and cultural characteristics of nations and regions involved, and technical feasibility of policy measures. Scientific and technological research support the policy making process about these issues. The perspectives of the scientific community and the policy-makers differ and as a consequence communication is often troublesome. Knowledge construction and utilization under such circumstances can only be effective if all parties involved engage in a continuous dialogue about causes, effects, impacts and responses. This summary describes a project carried out in the Netherlands. It had as its major objective to articulate a variety of perceptions and positions related to climate change. As a result of the project, policy actors produced five policy options and formulated research questions. The policy options are linked in the framework of a policy life cycle. Research questions focus on the risks of climate change and on feasible social, economic, cultural and technological responses to climate change. As to the policy options, striving for common means appears to be more promising than pursuing shared goals and philosophies.

Illustration of policy development cycle

Policy Options generated:

  • No-regrets
  • Least-regrets
  • Acceleration
  • Technological innovation
  • Institutional-cultural change

These policy options represent the preferences of different coalitions of societal actors that, after negotiations, could be translated in actual compromise strategies. The relative importance of the five options will also change over time, along with a changing societal context and changing scientific views. Considering variety in socio-cultural patterns within society as a viable long-term source for sustainable development, cohesion between the options will pragmatically be based on the sharing of means (actions) rather than sharing of goals. The actors involved had different perspectives on climate change, very much related to their direct interests in the outcome of the policy debate. As a consequence of their position, they expected different roles from the science community to support them. As the policy context is dynamic, four phases can be distinguished giving shape to a so-called policy life cycle:

  • Articulation: Small leading groups in society cause growing awareness in society. As a response, group building within major interest groups takes place. Science supports the conceptualization of the problem.
  • Aggregation: Coalitions are built between interest groups and policies are developed. The role of science shifts towards problem solving.
  • Allocation: Public administration facilities are set up, budgets are defined and allocated: policies are implemented. Scientific assessments can support actors to comply with the measures.
  • Review: Policies are evaluated and fine-tuned. Science can help with performance evaluation.

Possible evolution of climate change over time

For more details, see Chapter 10 of the book: 
The Magic Circle: Principles of Gaming & Simulation