Beyond evidence

Experts gather at Wolfson College to explore how knowledge practices inform the governance of environmental challenges.

There are few areas in modern life untouched by regulation. Recent regulatory disasters such as the VW Emissions Scandal, once again, raise the question of whether insufficient knowledge is the cause of such regulatory failures.

Last month, delegates gathered at Wolfson College, Oxford, to explore how evidence is used to inform environmental governance challenges, at a workshop hosted by Oxford University’s Centre for Socio-Legal Studies.

The workshop drew perspectives from across a variety of disciplines, including cultural and urban geographers, economists, political scientists, socio-legal researchers and academic lawyers. Among the speakers were Oxford Water Network members Bettina Lange (workshop convenor), Chris DeckerCatharina Landström and Kevin Grecksch,

Presentations explored how a range of knowledge practices from environmental science and economics inform the governance of contemporary environmental challenges. Speakers touched upon topics such as the regulation of water scarcity and drought in the UK, hydraulic fracking for shale gas, carbon accounting under the Paris Agreement, as well as a range of climate change adaptation measures in North-Western Germany.

The diversity of disciplinary perspectives made for a simulating discussion which considered the opportunities for, and limitations of, evidence in informing environmental regulatory decision-making. This debate touched upon a range of cross-cutting analytical themes, including the relevance of network metaphors, deep uncertainty of knowledge in the context of innovative technologies, as well as agency and scale for understanding the production and dissemination of evidence for the purposes of regulatory decision-making.

The workshop saw the development of a series of ‘law in action’ perspectives around these themes. These were informed by the participation of staff from the Environment Agency and the Competition and Markets Authority, and grounded in the research presented at the workshop.

A detailed workshop programme and abstracts are available from the Law Faculty website.