Seminar: Niko Soininen

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Niko Soininen, University of Eastern Finland
Time of Event: 
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 - 11:00

National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)
1 Park Place, Suite 300
Annapolis, MD 21401

Adaptive governance of blue renewable energy in Finland - Lessons learned and lessons needed

Seminar presented by Niko Soininen, Visiting Scholar from the University of Eastern Finland.

Adaptive governance literature has long since emphasized the need for science-based policy and management. In brief, the argument is that governance of using natural resources, controlling pollution, or conserving nature will not be effective in reaching environmental policy goals, if there is no scientific knowledge of the effects of these activities, and if governance does not facilitate changes in management when new scientific knowledge indicates it should.

Two fundamental justifications underscore the need for adaptive governance: environmental changes on one hand, and the limitations of science (our ability to know about the rate and direction of change) on the other. In recent years, the literature on social ecological resilience and panarchy has underscored the non-linearity and fundamental uncertainty in ecological systems facing large scale environmental change, and this uncertainty is considerably limiting our ability to know about and predict the rate and direction of change. The argument goes that environmental governance needs to be drafted with these fundamental uncertainties and risks in mind.

My research interests lie in understanding adaptive governance in freshwater and marine contexts. I am specifically interested in two sets of questions: 1) what factors typically stand in between science and policy integration; and 2) which procedural and substantive legal mechanisms may hinder or facilitate adaptive governance and management. In this presentation, I take a look at adaptive aquatic governance in EU-Finland through the lenses of two case studies revolving around the production of hydropower and regulating river flows. The first case study is about reconciling the damming of rivers with conservation of anadromous fish, such as salmon and trout. The second is about avoiding hydrological extremes and the related riparian damages up and downstream the international river Vuoksi.

The two case studies lead to two lessons for adaptive governance. First, if environmental governance is underscored by multiple and competing policy goals (use v. conservation of rivers) and priorities regarding a river, adaptivity (how should a society respond to environmental change and scientific uncertainty) is a fundamentally contested concept. In contrast to the adaptive governance and resilience theory outlined above, the connection between environmental change, scientific knowledge and adaptive governance is far from clear. Past political and legal decisions may present a strong barrier for linking new science to management, and it may also be highly contested how governance should react to environmental change and new science. Second, if environmental governance is underscored by two or more aligning goals (e.g. protecting riparians from the extreme effects of changing hydrology) and environmental priorities, adaptive governance and management are useful and often uncontested tools for striving toward these goals.

Finally, and related to my research at SESYNC, the question becomes, how does one effectively regulate a societal transition towards renewable energy in a context which is underscored by multiple and competing societal goals? In Europe and in Finland, water and marine policies are simultaneously focusing on increasing the role of blue renewable energy (hydropower, off- and onshore wind power, wave power) to mitigate climate change on one hand, and protecting aquatic ecosystems on the other (conservation sites, aspiration towards good ecological status, or similar). If climate science points to the need to mitigate climate change and increase renewable energy production, and ecology to the need to decrease the environmental effects of renewable energy production, which science (climate science v. ecology) and which goal (increase blue renewables v. protect the biodiversity of aquatic environments) does one abide by? How does one adapt to multiple policy goals?

About the speaker:

Niko Soininen (PhD in environmental law) is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Law and Jurisprudence @ University of Eastern Finland and a Postdoctoral Researcher in Ocean Governance Law @ University of Gothenburg. He has a keen interest in water law, marine environmental law, and nature conservation law on international, EU, and national levels alike. In his theoretical work, Soininen focuses on adaptive governance and methods of legal interpretation. He is a co-editor of a book entitled 'Transboundary Marine Spatial Planning and International Law' (Earthscan/Routledge 2015) and author of several articles and book chapters on adaptive governance of fresh and marine waters. Outside of academia, Soininen has worked as a consultant for HELCOM, the World Bank, and for several ministries responsible for implementing marine environmental-, water- and nature conservation law in Finland.

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Event Attendance: 
Open to the Public
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