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Mapping EU policies and Green Deal objectives: observations for policy coherence in the marine domain

A total of 36 policies were selected and mapped against five EGD strategies, namely the 2030 Climate Target Plan, the EU Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the Zero Pollution Action Plan, and the Sustainable Blue Economy Strategy. These five strategies lay out a total of 25 specific objectives to implement the vision of the EGD, identified as relevant to the marine domain and the focus of the CrossGov project – i.e. climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

The European Green Deal (EGD), launched in 2019, sets out a comprehensive suite of policy initiatives to propel Europe to a sustainable economy and make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 (European Commission, 2019). To achieve this 2050 vision for Europe, the EU has launched numerous strategies targeting key areas for change. These include the 2030 Climate Target Plan, the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the Zero Pollution Action Plan, and the Blue Economy Strategy. The 2019 EGD Communication (European Commission, 2019) and its subsequent strategies and action plans are closely interconnected, as they represent an integrated effort to address climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution challenges facing the EU.

These strategies and their objectives are not to be considered in isolation since they are interconnected and interdependent and given equal priority by the EGD. Within this complex policy landscape policies must be designed to, not only consider impacts on all EGD objectives, but also to maximise synergies. This relation potentially creates trade-offs between policies or unintended consequences that hinder the progress of policies towards EGD objectives. Within the EU, the development of a complex, multi-level, and multi-sector policy ‘landscape’ has led to a framework that contains overlaps, gaps, weaknesses, and inconsistencies. The result poses a significant challenge for authorities and actors responsible for policy implementation.

This report offers a general introduction into selected EU policies. As a first step, a policy mapping exercise was conducted and a total of 36 policies were selected and mapped against five EGD strategies. These five selected strategies lay out a total of 25 specific (see Table 3) objectives to implement the vision of the EGD, identified as relevant to the marine domain and the focus of the CrossGov project – i.e., climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. The assessment applies the CrossGov Policy Coherence Evaluation Framework, a methodological approach for investigating policy coherence. The first draft of the Framework focused on eight coherence attributes, namely objectives, framing and mainstreaming, instruments, stakeholders, institutions, steering mechanisms, spatial and temporal scales, and science and knowledge. The Framework has currently been revised and will be further developed throughout the CrossGov project.

The results reveal a diverse degree of alignment of the objectives of the 36 policies with those of the EGD. A total of 203 instances where policy objectives reflect the EGD’s objectives in addressing climate change, biodiversity preservation, and pollution were identified when considering what is laid out in the policy documents and what they intend to do. These are covered by 32 policies. In addition, some policies, namely the Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment directives, were not identified to have either positive or negative alignment with any of the EGD objectives. This is most likely due to their primarily process-oriented nature, where their main function is to provide cross-cutting support across policy domains.

This suggests that there is potential for a vertical policy coherence between the policies and the EGD strategies, at least when considering what is laid out in the policy documents and what they intend to do. Regarding policy framing and mainstreaming, many policies exhibit strong interconnections and mutual reinforcement, which potentially contributes to achieving the overarching goals, while others present clear opportunities for improved alignment. An introductory view into the remaining coherence attributes of the 36 reviewed policies identified numerous examples of how these attributes are reflected within the policy documents. However, no conclusions can yet be drawn, and no relative weight or level of importance is assigned to the different coherence attributes in this review.

This finding suggests that there is a significant need for future assessments into the design of policies and how this affects their capacity to achieve their objectives. Ultimately, while the review provides a first policy mapping exercise an initial screening of considerations into the coherence of policies and the EGD, conclusive results can only be developed through a further and more in-depth study of policy coherence (forthcoming in CrossGov).

Read the full publication here.

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