Policy-making when science is uncertain - The case of biofuel legislation in the EU

University essay from Lunds universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: Environmental problems are said to be research dependent, as science is needed to identify phenomena such as climate change. New technological cures are however often characterised by both research dependence and scientific uncertainty. One example is Biofuels. A few years back they were seen as a sustainable solution to the transport sector's carbon dioxide emissions and oil dependence. Since then, they have become widely questioned on the grounds of their emission savings and adverse environmental impacts. The European Commission presented a proposed for a Directive on renewable energy, including a binding 10 % target for biofuels, in the beginning of 2008. The Council and European Parliament agreed on an outcome in late December the same year. This thesis traces the policy process, with the purpose of investigating the potential influence of voiced scientific criticism. Literature regarding the role of science in policy-making is reviewed, and hypotheses are derived regarding the possible effects of scientific uncertainty. The results imply that uncertainty regarding biofuels' costs and benefits was not able to affect the policy outcome, but that it had a certain impact on the EU institutions during the political process.

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