Role of the State and Institutions in the domain of Environmental Governance

The history of human endeavour, economic growth and generally socio-cultural organisations is replete with milestones and insights regarding evolutionary processes and shifts in organisational paradigms. This progression has typically involved constant struggle to garner / monopolize resources. More often than not this has shaped the need for construction of such mechanisms that enable fairness in access and distribution of resources, keeping in mind equity and inclusiveness concerns, such that disparities, conflicts and potential deeper angst were (are) minimized in the march of civilizations across dimensions - be it economic, technological, social, cultural, political, philosophical, religious, geographic or others.

The role of the state tends to stretch itself on the public goods – private goods spectrum in particular. The role inherently involves efforts to moderate the externalities (whether positive or negative) that emanate from human actions and activities across the many dimensions which have been emerging and evolving.

A formulation reflecting on scenarios and directionalities amongst public and private goods spheres as human footprint expands or contracts across human activity dimensions is graphically depicted below.

THE INSTITUTIONAL MATRIX: MODERATING EXTERNALITIES (+/ -) in the public goods – private goods cycle(s)

It needs to be further emphasised that the balancing role performed by institutions in the broader environmental governance framework articulates itself though micro-processes and macro-processes. For example, the formulations such as the ‘invisible hand’ and more recently perceived realities regarding the ‘visible hand’ are key indicators especially of both invisible and visible processes which are in essence institutional elements at work, and these could be in both macro and micro settings. Further the institutional actions are undertaken through instruments that can take the forms such as the ‘economic man, ‘organisational man’ or ‘administrative man’ etc.

Rightly speaking the mechanisms of institutional action can be said to be embedded in market systems which uphold collaborative governance approaches and varieties of partnerships etc.
It can be discerned that institutions seek to promote values and standards that could be built on the strength of reasoning and not merely on the scope of leverage (indicated with reference to Habermas). Institutions invite higher quality of voluntary actions, while setting out the rules of the game. In building legitimacies and facilitating ‘legitimacy flows’ amongst the varieties of actors, institutions also engage in the monitoring, evaluations, guidance activities and rewards and sanctions related functions (directly or through other institutional agents and agencies).

In the sub-themes and sub-contexts pertaining to the public-private goods spectrum, institutions need to focus on greening of industry, allocations of carbon emissions space and for water footprints, promoting resource productivity and efficiency concerns across value chains, seeking eco-innovation and enabling eco-designs to capture mind-space and develop new markets, shape channels for fundamental research and discoveries for inventing cleaner technologies and enabling ecological modernisation processes through technology upgradation and transfers, build platforms for knowledge creation and encourage knowledge sharing in the public services framework etc.

Institutions undertake these and many other tasks at local, regional, national, and international strata of human engagement to facilitate growth and spread of environmental ingenuity for obtaining larger and broader environmental justice.

 This article has been authored by Mr. Harsh Thukral, Deputy Director National Cleaner Production Centre, NPC

Image courtsey:

Rivo's flickr photolibrary

Author: Harsh Thukral