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Sustainability 2016, 8(5), 463;

System Merits or Failures? Policies for Transition to Sustainable P and N Systems in The Netherlands and Finland

Policy, Organisation, Law & Gaming (POLG), Department of Multi-Actor Systems (MAS), Faculty of Technology, Policy & Management (TPM), Delft University of Technology, Jaffalaan 5, 2628 BX Delft, The Netherlands
Sustainability Science, School of Energy Systems, Lappeenranta University of Technology, FI-53851 Lappeenranta, Finland
Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Jokiniemenkuja 1, 03170 Vantaa, Finland
Department of Governance and Technology for Sustainability (CSTM), Institute of Innovation and Governance Studies (IGS), Faculty of Behavioral, Management and Social Sciences (BMS), University of Twente, P.O. Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Bart A.G. Bossink
Received: 29 January 2016 / Revised: 25 April 2016 / Accepted: 4 May 2016 / Published: 11 May 2016
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Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) cycles are absolutely vital in maintaining sustainable food systems. Human activities disturb the natural balance of these cycles by creating enormous additional nutrient fluxes, causing eutrophication of waterways and pollution in land systems. To tackle this problem, sustainable nutrient management is required. This paper addresses sustainable nutrient management in two countries: The Netherlands and Finland. We adopt a critical perspective on resource politics, especially towards opportunistic policy strategies for the pollutant management of N and P. Two research questions are considered. First, what are the key systemic and policy failures that occurred in the N and P systems in the Netherlands and Finland between 1970 and 2015? And second, which lessons can be drawn when addressing the policy responses in the two countries to cope with these failures? The cases are analyzed within Weber and Rohracher’s framework that addresses “failures” preventing sustainable transitions. The results show that a number of failures occurred, besides market failures (over-exploitation of the commons, externalization of costs): lack of directionality, policy coordination, institutions, capabilities, infrastructure, demand articulation, and reflexivity. Policy responses in both countries resulted in ponderous policy frameworks that were adequate to tackle nutrient problems from the industrial sector and municipalities. However, both countries provided only a moderate response in terms of system-wide integrated policy frameworks to cope with sectoral-transcending issues. The agricultural use of N and P, in contrast to detergents, has not been subjected to strong regulatory measures. View Full-Text
Keywords: sustainable transition; nitrogen; phosphorus; environmental policy; policy failure sustainable transition; nitrogen; phosphorus; environmental policy; policy failure

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Hoppe, T.; Kuokkanen, A.; Mikkilä, M.; Kahiluoto, H.; Kuisma, M.; Arentsen, M.; Linnanen, L. System Merits or Failures? Policies for Transition to Sustainable P and N Systems in The Netherlands and Finland. Sustainability 2016, 8, 463.

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