Task allocation in European Union environmental policy: testing the value of a federal theoretical perspective

  • Benson, David (Principal Investigator)
  • Adger, Neil (Co-Investigator)

Project Details


As already discussed (see 'Objectives'), I have three major aims for the PDF: to disseminate my research findings to a wider academic and non-academic audience; to further develop inter-institutional linkages that I have already forged; and, to use it to develop my career as an academic researcher.

First, the central aim of the PDF is to disseminate the findings of my thesis research. In simple terms, my thesis seeks to understand how political powers or 'tasks' (Weale, 2005) are allocated between policy-making levels in the European Union (EU). Several theories of EU integration could potentially explain such allocations, including federal approaches. These are attaining greater popularity in EU studies but still lack detailed empirical testing. My research, therefore, utilizes federal theory to try to explain EU task allocation, using evidence from environmental policy-making. This should help academics understand the wider value of federal theory to EU studies. It also speaks directly to the politically contested division of powers between Member States and the EU - a continuing factor in the ratification of a European Constitution.

Dissemination of the research should therefore benefit several different user groups, both academic and non-academic. Federalism now forms a major debate in the EU integration literature (e.g. Trechsel, 2005). My research is making a significant addition to this discussion through publication in international outlets (see CV). It should also benefit the wider political science, environmental law and EU policy-making community, as task allocation (or 'scaling') generally remains poorly understood. Meanwhile, the case studies will make a positive contribution to understanding EU environmental policy. Lastly, it should also be of interest to the general public. The EU's perceived lack of democratic legitimacy was central to the recent rejection of the EU Constitution. The research is therefore pertinent to current debates about 'what level should do what' in the EU and its future direction.

Second, the PDF will aim to further develop inter-institutional links between the ESRC's CSERGE and the National Europe Centre (NEC) at ANU in Canberra around the common issue of multi-level environmental governance. The NEC has an existing comparative research programme examining environmental governance in both contexts. Crucially, there is enormous potential to compare fruitfully the EU with a more fully fledged political federation like Australia, dealing with similar problems, e.g. water use. Both jurisdictions have extensive environmental legislation but arguments persist over its legitimacy and implementation. As well as undertake limited new research in Australia, I aim to build stronger links between academics researching these topics.

Major beneficiaries will be policy-makers on a global scale. The IHDP's continuing research shows that problems related to the governance of environmental problems are seemingly endemic in all multi-level systems. A major question here is how to allocate decision-making tasks between institutional levels and actors in ways that enhance democratic legitimacy, economic competitiveness and the implementation efficiency of policies. As such, I am already contributing to the IHDP's activities, both through the book chapter and the IDGEC 2006 Bali conference.

Third, I aim to develop my capacity to pursue academic research as a professional career. A critical means of establishing an academic profile is through publication. I have already published some of my findings in high-profile academic publications (see CV), a process that will continue in the Fellowship. In addition, the proposed programme of work will involve further skills training that will enhance my research capabilities. It will also seek to pursue the long-term objective of generating innovative research proposals in this dynamic area.
Effective start/end date1/05/0730/04/08


  • Economic and Social Research Council: £67,899.00