, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 144–157 | Cite as

Governance of Complex Socio-Environmental Risks: The Case of Hazardous Chemicals in the Baltic Sea

  • Mikael Karlsson
  • Michael Gilek
  • Oksana Udovyk


Complex socio-environmental risks challenge society. In response to scientific uncertainty and socio-political controversies, environmental governance, precaution, and the ecosystem approach to management are held forward as complements to governmental risk-based sector-restricted regulation. We analyze this development for hazardous substances in the Baltic Sea. Based on interviews and policy analysis, we study informal governance and, in particular, four central EU and international policies, and investigate how present governance relates to risks and objectives at hand. While showing emergence of broader governance approaches, we conclude that central objectives will not likely be met. Furthermore, we question the quest for broad environmental governance and emphasize the value of command and control regulation, if it implements precaution. These findings contribute to the theorizing on environmental (risk) governance. Finally, we provide some ideas that could help development and implementation of risk policies for hazardous chemicals in the Baltic Sea as well as other complex risks.


Ecosystem approach HELCOM Marine Strategy Framework Directive Precaution REACH Water Framework Directive 



We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Joint Baltic Sea Research Programme BONUS+, the Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies, the Swedish Research Council Formas, and the Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES). We are also thankful for valuable comments from three anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life Sciences Södertörn UniversityHuddingeSweden
  2. 2.Centre for Baltic and East European Studies Södertörn UniversityHuddingeSweden
  3. 3.Water and Environmental Studies Linköping UniversityLinköpingSweden

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