The Implications of Wicked Problems for the Legitimacy of European Environmental Policy Development. The case of Environmental Risks from the Pharmaceutical Endocrine Disrupter, 17α-Ethinyl Oestradiol under the European Water Framework Directive
Gardner Le Gars, Joanne Claire
Date: 4 April 2018
University of Exeter
PhD in Biological Sciences
The issue of environmental risks from the pharmaceutical endocrine disrupter 17 alpha-ethinyl oestradiol (EE2), which is an active ingredient in the contraceptive pill, confronts government responsibilities for citizens' health with potential environmental risks from its presence in aquatic ecosystems. Further to a risk appraisal process ...
The issue of environmental risks from the pharmaceutical endocrine disrupter 17 alpha-ethinyl oestradiol (EE2), which is an active ingredient in the contraceptive pill, confronts government responsibilities for citizens' health with potential environmental risks from its presence in aquatic ecosystems. Further to a risk appraisal process conducted under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) between 2006 and 2012, the European Commission recommended the imposition of an environmental quality standard for EE2. In 2013, this recommendation was rejected by politicians. The outcome was both contested and commended. The UK Government was particularly vehement in its opposition and claimed that the risk assessment process for EE2 was not robust. The UK Government also insisted that it had swayed opinion of other EU Member States to convince them that action for EE2 was not proportionate given the extremely elevated costs of risk control options. At the present time, environmental policy for EE2 and other endocrine disrupters remains resolutely ineffective. Despite three distinct policy interventions recommending precautionary action for EE2 during the past twenty years, emissions of this potent, oestrogenic endocrine disrupter continue unabated. This thesis explains why European politicians rejected the European Commission’s risk governance recommendations for EE2 in 2013 under the Water Framework Directive. This comprises its principal empirical contribution. A novel analytical framework which draws on insights from the policy sciences, risk governance and wicked problems literature is developed. This framework is employed to determine whether the policy outcome for EE2, and the decision-making processes that preceded it, were legitimate. The research findings in this respect advance understanding of the implications of specific properties of wicked problems, of which it is argued, EE2 is an example, for the legitimacy of decision-making processes during the risk appraisal and political phases of policy development in Europe. This comprises the principle theoretical contribution of the thesis. Recommendations to promote more effective and legitimate policy development for wicked problems in similar multi-level governance contexts are also made.
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