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Special Issue "Government Policy and Sustainability"

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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2015)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Richard Matthew

Schools of Social Ecology and Social Science, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-7075, USA
Phone: +1 949 824 9670
Interests: the environmental dimensions of conflict and peacebuilding; climate change adaptation in conflict and post-conflict societies; transnational threat systems

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Since the publication of Our Common Future in 1987, government policy has been widely regarded as a key driver of sustainability, a perspective that received considerable attention at the recent Rio + 20 summit. This special issue invites submissions on all aspects of the complex relationships between government policy and sustainability. For example, what are the strengths and weaknesses of different levels of government from local and national to regional and international? How can policies be harmonized across levels of government? What are the prospects for greening public procurement and international trade? What are the best public practices for managing climate change and governing key resources such as water and energy? How can government policy address the challenges of environmentally induced population displacement and conflict? What government policies can promote sustainability in regions where resources are being privatized or land is being leased and purchased by foreign investors? What should be the government's role in sustainability education?

Prof. Dr. Richard Matthew
Guest Editor

Submission

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed Open Access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs).

Keywords

  • sustainability
  • government policy
  • green procurement
  • fair trade
  • natural resource management

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Distributional Challenges of Sustainability Policies—The Case of the German Energy Transition
Sustainability 2015, 7(12), 16599-16615; doi:10.3390/su71215834
Received: 30 September 2015 / Revised: 20 November 2015 / Accepted: 10 December 2015 / Published: 16 December 2015
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (696 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Sustainability policies based on the economic rationale of providing incentives to get prices right inevitably place a significant burden on society and often raise distributional concerns. The social acceptability of Germany’s energy transition towards more sustainable generation and usage of energy is [...] Read more.
Sustainability policies based on the economic rationale of providing incentives to get prices right inevitably place a significant burden on society and often raise distributional concerns. The social acceptability of Germany’s energy transition towards more sustainable generation and usage of energy is frequently the subject of such critical appraisals. The discourse centres upon the burden imposed on electricity users as a result of the promotion of renewable energy sources in the electricity sector in accordance with the German Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG). A regressive EEG surcharge is suspected of driving up energy prices unreasonably and of being socially unjust. It is also argued that high-income utility owners profit from the EEG system at the expense of low-income electricity consumers (redistribution from bottom to top). The aim of this paper is to examine the validity of these two hypotheses and to show that both exhibit substantial theoretical and empirical weaknesses, with climate and environmental policy being played off against social policy in a questionable manner. At the same time, the article points out remaining conflicts between energy policy and social policy and makes corresponding policy recommendations for their resolution, thus contributing to reconciling distributional concerns arising in the context of incentive-oriented sustainability governance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Government Policy and Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Cultural Values and Sustainable Tourism Governance in Bhutan
Sustainability 2015, 7(12), 16616-16630; doi:10.3390/su71215837
Received: 30 September 2015 / Revised: 8 December 2015 / Accepted: 11 December 2015 / Published: 16 December 2015
PDF Full-text (202 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Governance is recognized as a means to promote sustainable outcomes by democratizing the policy process and potentially harmonizing competing policy interests. This is particularly critical for sustainable tourism policy with its multiple sectors and multiple stakeholders at multiple scales. Yet little is [...] Read more.
Governance is recognized as a means to promote sustainable outcomes by democratizing the policy process and potentially harmonizing competing policy interests. This is particularly critical for sustainable tourism policy with its multiple sectors and multiple stakeholders at multiple scales. Yet little is known about the kinds of governance processes and instruments that are able to effectively harmonize competing power interests to better balance economic, ecological, and social concerns. This study analyzes the case of Bhutan and its Gross National Happiness (GNH) strategy as it is applied to sustainable tourism policy. Based on semi-structured interviews and focus groups with 57 state and non-state governance actors, it explores whether Bhutan’s unique GNH governance framework successfully harmonizes competing interests in the pursuit of sustainable tourism policy. It argues that the implementation of Bhutanese tourism policy is characterized by diverse and unexpected applications of power by multiple policy stakeholders. These complex power dynamics are not shaped in a meaningful way by the GNH governance instruments. Nor are they rooted in a common understanding of GNH itself. While this situation should subvert sustainable tourism policy, a commitment among state and non-state governance actors to a common set of Buddhist-infused cultural values shapes and constrains policy actions in a manner that promotes sustainable tourism outcomes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Government Policy and Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Exploring No-Cost Opportunities for Public Sector Information Systems Energy Efficiency: A Tennessee Application
Sustainability 2015, 7(11), 14631-14646; doi:10.3390/su71114631
Received: 28 August 2015 / Revised: 27 October 2015 / Accepted: 28 October 2015 / Published: 3 November 2015
PDF Full-text (1815 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) completed a pilot project within its Central Office spaces to test the utilization of computer power management (CPM) technologies to implement power saving settings on state-owned, network-connected computer equipment. Currently, the State of Tennessee [...] Read more.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) completed a pilot project within its Central Office spaces to test the utilization of computer power management (CPM) technologies to implement power saving settings on state-owned, network-connected computer equipment. Currently, the State of Tennessee has no clear protocol regarding energy-conserving power settings on state-owned machines. Activation of monitor sleep modes and system standby and hibernation modes on 615 Central Office computers over an 18-month period reduced energy consumption by an estimated 8093 kWh and $526 per month, amounting to approximately $6312 in cost savings for Tennessee annually. If implemented throughout State of Tennessee executive agencies across the state, energy cost savings could amount to an estimated $323,341 annually. The research endeavored to understand both positive and negative impacts that strategic power management approaches can have on energy consumption, worker productivity, network security, and state budgets. Nearly all impacts discussed were positive. Based on successful results within TDEC Central Office spaces in Tennessee Tower, and considering the potential cost savings that could be achieved, expansion of the implementation of computer power management policies to machines in offices across the state was recommended. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Government Policy and Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle From Indicators to Policies: Open Sustainability Assessment in the Water and Sanitation Sector
Sustainability 2015, 7(11), 14537-14557; doi:10.3390/su71114537
Received: 21 July 2015 / Revised: 24 September 2015 / Accepted: 26 October 2015 / Published: 30 October 2015
PDF Full-text (987 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
A water and sanitation sustainability index (WASSI) was developed and estimated in four cities of the province of Salta, in northern Argentina. The index was built with nine descriptors and fifteen indicators that covered all essential aspects of the sustainability of local [...] Read more.
A water and sanitation sustainability index (WASSI) was developed and estimated in four cities of the province of Salta, in northern Argentina. The index was built with nine descriptors and fifteen indicators that covered all essential aspects of the sustainability of local water and sanitation management systems. Only one of the cities studied obtained a sustainability value above the acceptability threshold adopted (50 of 100 points). Results indicate that the water company needs to address some environmental and social issues to enhance the sustainability of the systems studied. The WASSI was conceptually robust and operationally simple, and could be easily adapted to the case studies. The index can be followed and updated online on a web site specially developed for this project. This website could be useful to promote participatory processes, assist decision makers, and facilitate academic research. According to local stakeholders, a more open sustainability assessment based on sustainability indices and supported by virtual tools would be relevant and highly feasible. It would help decision makers improve the sustainability and transparency of water and sanitation management systems, and promote more sustainable water policies in the region and beyond. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Government Policy and Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Approaching Integrated Urban-Rural Development in China: The Changing Institutional Roles
Sustainability 2015, 7(6), 7031-7048; doi:10.3390/su7067031
Received: 2 March 2015 / Revised: 26 May 2015 / Accepted: 27 May 2015 / Published: 2 June 2015
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (627 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper examines the impact of institutional change on the implementation of China’s integrated urban-rural development strategy in the period 1981–2010. The findings indicate that governmental investment in rural areas and the development of non-agricultural industries in the countryside in fact contributed [...] Read more.
This paper examines the impact of institutional change on the implementation of China’s integrated urban-rural development strategy in the period 1981–2010. The findings indicate that governmental investment in rural areas and the development of non-agricultural industries in the countryside in fact contributed positively to the integration of urban-rural development in the period studied. The household registration system, however, was found to have acted as an obstacle to integration due to its exclusion of rural immigrants from welfare benefits. The reform of the agricultural production price system was not found to have exerted an impact, since low agricultural incomes compelled peasants to undertake non-agricultural work in towns and cities. A robustness check performed as part of the study proved the reliability of these findings. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Government Policy and Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Social Capital and Longitudinal Change in Sustainability Plans and Policies: U.S. Cities from 2000 to 2010
Sustainability 2014, 6(1), 136-157; doi:10.3390/su6010136
Received: 24 September 2013 / Revised: 27 November 2013 / Accepted: 9 December 2013 / Published: 27 December 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (770 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This study examines changes from 2000 to 2010 in the adoption of sustainability plans and policies in a sample of U.S. cities. The study’s framework posits sustainability initiatives as communitarian outcomes intended to meet the needs of both current and future generations. [...] Read more.
This study examines changes from 2000 to 2010 in the adoption of sustainability plans and policies in a sample of U.S. cities. The study’s framework posits sustainability initiatives as communitarian outcomes intended to meet the needs of both current and future generations. We hypothesize, accordingly, that a community’s social capital level, in the form of the relative presence of social trust, is a primary facilitating condition for the adoption of sustainability initiatives. The analysis assesses whether trust-based social capital is similarly associated with the adoption of plans and policies at both time points (2000 and 2010), as well as whether social capital is associated with change in the adoption levels documented across the ten-year period. The paper concludes by suggesting that the effect of social capital is substantially reduced in 2010 as a consequence of institutional network dynamics featured in the theory of isomorphic change. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Government Policy and Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Governance and the Gulf of Mexico Coast: How Are Current Policies Contributing to Sustainability?
Sustainability 2013, 5(11), 4688-4705; doi:10.3390/su5114688
Received: 23 August 2013 / Revised: 23 October 2013 / Accepted: 30 October 2013 / Published: 7 November 2013
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (348 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The quality of life and economies of coastal communities depend, to a great degree, on the ecological integrity of coastal ecosystems. Paradoxically, as more people are drawn to the coasts, these ecosystems and the services they provide are increasingly stressed by development [...] Read more.
The quality of life and economies of coastal communities depend, to a great degree, on the ecological integrity of coastal ecosystems. Paradoxically, as more people are drawn to the coasts, these ecosystems and the services they provide are increasingly stressed by development and human use. Employing the coastal Gulf of Mexico as an example, we explore through three case studies how government policies contribute to preventing, mitigating, or exacerbating the degradation of coastal ecosystems. We consider the effectiveness of the current systems, what alternate or additional policy solutions might be needed to ensure the sustainability of the region and its quality of life, and what this example can tell us about the sustainability of coastal systems globally. In our examples, among other aspects, policies that are proactive and networked governance structures are observed to favor sustainable outcomes, in contrast to reactive policies and hierarchical models of governance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Government Policy and Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Backcasting for Sustainable Employment: A Hungarian Experience
Sustainability 2013, 5(7), 2991-3005; doi:10.3390/su5072991
Received: 10 May 2013 / Revised: 1 July 2013 / Accepted: 3 July 2013 / Published: 10 July 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (516 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Sustainability and employment are terms seldom used together. Especially when defining sustainability in the stricter sense of the word, delineating a world where strong sustainability is the norm, it is problematic to deduct which elements may compose sustainable employment. In the relevant [...] Read more.
Sustainability and employment are terms seldom used together. Especially when defining sustainability in the stricter sense of the word, delineating a world where strong sustainability is the norm, it is problematic to deduct which elements may compose sustainable employment. In the relevant discourse, two distinct directions can be identified. Ecological modernization promises “quick fixes” to employment problems while reducing environmentally harmful economic activities without initiating major changes either in our ways of thinking or in our way of living. At the same time, the radical change paradigm disposes of the concepts of the free market society and believes that new “great transformations” are unavoidable, whereby values must change just as much as institutions. Yet, how far have these normative theoretical approaches penetrated our everyday thinking? The paper builds upon the experience of a backcasting project on sustainable employment conducted in Hungary in 2012 and early 2013 and suggests that when people are given the chance to leave the path dependencies of today behind and imagine a sustainable future, their normative visions provide us with invaluable insight as to what may constitute sustainable employment. It also contributes towards our understanding of which policy tools lead us towards a more sustainable world of work in particular and a more sustainable society in general. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Government Policy and Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle ¨ A Dilemma of Abundance: Governance Challenges of Reconciling Shale Gas Development and Climate Change Mitigation
Sustainability 2013, 5(5), 2210-2232; doi:10.3390/su5052210
Received: 18 March 2013 / Revised: 24 April 2013 / Accepted: 28 April 2013 / Published: 14 May 2013
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (632 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Shale gas proponents argue this unconventional fossil fuel offers a “bridge” towards a cleaner energy system by offsetting higher-carbon fuels such as coal. The technical feasibility of reconciling shale gas development with climate action remains contested. However, we here argue that governance [...] Read more.
Shale gas proponents argue this unconventional fossil fuel offers a “bridge” towards a cleaner energy system by offsetting higher-carbon fuels such as coal. The technical feasibility of reconciling shale gas development with climate action remains contested. However, we here argue that governance challenges are both more pressing and more profound. Reconciling shale gas and climate action requires institutions capable of responding effectively to uncertainty; intervening to mandate emissions reductions and internalize costs to industry; and managing the energy system strategically towards a lower carbon future. Such policy measures prove challenging, particularly in jurisdictions that stand to benefit economically from unconventional fuels. We illustrate this dilemma through a case study of shale gas development in British Columbia, Canada, a global leader on climate policy that is nonetheless struggling to manage gas development for mitigation. The BC case is indicative of the constraints jurisdictions face both to reconcile gas development and climate action, and to manage the industry adequately to achieve social licence and minimize resistance. More broadly, the case attests to the magnitude of change required to transform our energy systems to mitigate climate change. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Government Policy and Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Should We Trust in Values? Explaining Public Support for Pro-Environmental Taxes
Sustainability 2013, 5(1), 210-227; doi:10.3390/su5010210
Received: 27 November 2012 / Revised: 24 December 2012 / Accepted: 1 January 2013 / Published: 16 January 2013
Cited by 13 | PDF Full-text (223 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In this paper we are concerned with what explains public acceptance and support of environmental taxes. We examine findings in environmental psychology emphasizing that people’s (environmental) value-orientation is the dominant driver determining individuals’ support for pro-environmental policy instruments. We introduce a complementary [...] Read more.
In this paper we are concerned with what explains public acceptance and support of environmental taxes. We examine findings in environmental psychology emphasizing that people’s (environmental) value-orientation is the dominant driver determining individuals’ support for pro-environmental policy instruments. We introduce a complementary model, mainly drawing upon findings in political science, suggesting that people’s support for policy instruments is dependent on their level of political trust and their trust in other citizens. More specifically, we analyze whether political trust and inter-personal trust affect individuals’ support for an increased carbon dioxide tax in Sweden, while checking their value orientation, self-interest, and various socio-economic values. We make use of survey data obtained from a mail questionnaire sent out to a random sample of 3,000 individuals in 2009. We find that apart from people’s values, beliefs, and norms, both political trust and interpersonal trust have significant effects on people's attitudes toward an increased tax on carbon dioxide. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Government Policy and Sustainability)

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