Department Environmental Policy Analysis

The Environmental Policy Analysis section is an international research team of about 20 faculty members, researchers, and graduate students within the Institute of Environmental Studies (IVM). The group members share an interest in analyzing policies, institutions and governance mechanisms in the field of sustainable development, and in exploring new forms of governance that better secure a transition to sustainable production and consumption. The group is characterized by a successful combination of high-quality fundamental research in long-term research projects with practical relevance and policy advice to decision-makers, as well as by a strong integration into European and international networks.

In 2014, the group has been evaluated in the Netherlands research assessment Environmental and Sustainability Sciences as “one of the highest profile academic research groups involved with sustainability governance from around the world”. The group received the highest possible scores ("world leading") for quality of research, research productivity, and societal relevance.

The section was established in 2003 and led until 2015 by Professor Frank Biermann. Since November 2015, Professor Philipp Pattberg serves as head of the section, and Professor Dave Huitema as deputy head.


Research Theme

The group’s leading research theme is governance for sustainable development. Governance has become a key concept in policy research, where it denotes the departure from old-style government to new forms of horizontal and vertical steering. This generally includes a transition from bureaucratic, centralized top-down policies to new forms of decision-making that are more inclusive, more decentralized, more flexible, and less hierarchical. Governance often also stands for the involvement of private actors in public decision-making. Within this context, we investigate several overarching questions: for example, how effective are modern systems of environmental governance in achieving the transition to sustainability? Which theories can best explain variation in the effectiveness of different forms of governance? Since most environmental problems are multi-scale in causes and consequences, we seek to address these questions at all levels of policy-making, from the behavior of citizens and consumers and their worldviews to national and global institutions and organizations.

Within this overarching theme, our research focusses on two lines of inquiry:

Global Environmental Governance. First, our program recognizes that modern environmental governance reaches beyond the confines of the nation state. More and more environmental problems can no longer be sufficiently addressed by national governments alone. Global change calls for global co-operation. We are looking here not only at traditional intergovernmental collaboration in treaties, but also at the role of non-state actors that became more prominent in recent decades.

Adaptive Governance. Second, we recognize that environmental governance is inherently reflexive, dynamic, and unstable. Traditional modes of policy-making, which were based on centralized, hierarchical, and largely static approaches, can no longer cope with the complexities of global environmental change and earth system transformation. But it remains open what the relative effectiveness of alternative, more reflexive and adaptive modes of governance could be.

See a list of all EPA team members