Institutional stability and change in environmental governance
Galik, C. S., Ba, Y., & Bobbitt, C. (2023, May 8). POLICY AND POLITICS.
Efforts to better understand what prevents institutions from changing to meet contemporary demands – or what facilitates the evolution of existing constructs to address new challenges – are of particular import and relevance to environmental governance. While the existing literature provides valuable conceptualisation and empirical evaluation of institutional stability and change, the lack of a consistent and holistic typology complicates the evaluation of institutions over time. In this article, we use a combined stability–change typology to assess the dominant modes of institutional change and stability over a multi-decadal timespan across three environmental governance systems – air quality governance in the US and China, and climate governance in the European Union. Across cases, we find that these modes are not mutually exclusive but can occur simultaneously, in concert or in conflict. We also find that observed patterns of change and stability are reflective of the social and political context in which systems operate, as well as the focus of the system itself (for example, localised air quality versus global climate change). Apart from providing a proof-of-concept analysis of institutional change and stability, our findings raise questions about the mechanisms underlying spatial and temporal patterns across identified modes. Indirectly, our findings also further highlight challenges to designing systems both resilient to exogenous stressors and capable of adapting to new situations. Our combined stability–change typology may help to advance understanding of whether and how such balancing has occurred in the past, thus facilitating future efforts to address contemporary challenges.