Extreme events regulatory style and regional environmental governance
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Extreme events, regulatory style and regional environmental governance. Rolf Lidskog, professor of sociology Centre for Urban and Regional Studies Örebro University Sweden

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Extreme events, regulatory style and regional environmental governance

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Extreme events, regulatory style and regional environmental governance

Rolf Lidskog, professor of sociology

Centre for Urban and Regional Studies

Örebro University


Presentation in the international workshop Comparing Regional Environmental Governance in East Asia and Europe, Kyoto 24-25 January 2013

Outline of the paper

1) What is an extreme event?

(consequences, not probabilities in focus)

2) Are extreme events manageable?

(the role of regulation)

3) Does region matter?

(the role of space)

1. What is an extreme event?

  • Extreme in terms of (negative) consequences rather than (low) probability

  • Its causes can partly be located to geophysical events, but can never exclusive lie within nature itself

  • Its character can be either gradual (creeping) or sudden (acute)

  • Its consequences can be of different kind and of different range (eg. geographical distribution)

The role of context

  • EE cannot be fully prevented, but to some extent mitigated

  • EE is alwaystied to context (social, spatial, cultural)

  • The structure of a specific society makes it more or less prone to generate extreme events

Extreme event, definition

  • EE is an event that threatens the normal functioning of an organization, system or whole society.

2. Are extreme events manageable?


  • aims to reduce the likelihood of an event, and (in cases when it occurs) reducing its negative consequences

  • manages risks by establishing boundaries for what is acceptable and developing systems for risk control

  • Regulation always needs to invent a regulatory object (making an issue apt for regulation)

Making issues governable

  • Risk: reducing the complexity of an issue (calculative practices that create safety distance, standardized measures for acceptable levels etc.)

  • Space: constructing a spatial identity of an issue (territorial anchored in order to become political manageable)

  • Responsibility: Ascribing capabilities to actors (mandate, task, responsibilities)

Regulatory regimes

  • an institutional machinery consisting of a complex of institutions, norms, practices and knowledge that makes regulation work

  • Does not only influence how an issue is regulated, but also the very definition of the issue (creates regulatory objects)

  • Different regulatory styles

    • Between sectors

    • Between countries

    • But also between regions?

3. Does region matter?

Regulatory style differs due to

  • Political culture

  • Technology culture

  • Civic culture

  • Geographical factors

  • Regulation is shaped by dynamic interplay by factors of historical, social and spatial kind

Are there regional differences in regulation?

  • Political culture, civic culture and technological culture may be shared by countries

    • Sometimes due to geographical proximity

    • other times between cultural proximity across geographically distances

  • There exist regional regulatory organizations (e.g. regional councils within UN)

  • The regulation of a specific system may by similar across regions and spatial scales (due to e.g. professional competence, social learning, policy diffusion, international regulation)

Extreme events may cause regional differences and similarities

  • EE, or the work to prevent its occurrence, may construct a specific spatial ontology (e.g. the construction of the Baltic Sea as a transnational area in need of regulation)

  • Specific regulatory regimes and safety cultures can be spread within a sector that crosses geographical borders (extra-regional distribution)

Reverberating region

  • EE demands rapid and strong responses

  • Even if there are regional or national differences in regulations, in case of emergency these differences may have less importance in comparison with non-extreme situations

  • But also, EE may lead to the emergence of new regional differences (due to the restricted availability of regulatory guidance)

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