The ‘The Nexus in Parliament‘ project, a collaboration between Green Alliance, King’s College London and the Grantham Institute at Imperial College and was led by Professor David Demeritt, brought natural and social scientists together with parliamentarians to explore parliamentary capacity to deliberate on nexus issues.
The project aimed to:
- establish a network to foster future collaborations between parliamentarians and UK natural and social scientists with expertise in nexus issues.
- improve understanding of nexus issues and, in particular, of the role and opportunities for parliamentary engagement with them.
- develop a shared research agenda and a specific co-designed research proposal for improving parliamentary scrutiny and governance of nexus issues.
air quality as a nexus issue
Initial scoping discussions between the project team and MPs identified air quality as a high profile nexus issue through which to explore the complex interdependencies between the environment, society, human health, and the economy.
A workshop held in the House of Commons, with the support of two select committee chairs, discussed integrated solutions to air quality issues, and considered how parliamentarians could work with the academic community and other stakeholders to improve nexus decision making.
The parliamentary workshop identified four steps that could be taken to improve the management of air quality in the UK, these are to;
- Look at air quality strategically.
- Address the allocation of resources and responsibilities between different levels of government: ie EU, UK, devolved administrations and local authorities.
- Gain a cross-government response to air pollution, whose causes and effects span right across the mandates for Defra, the Departments for Transport, Communities and Local Government, Health, and Energy and Climate Change, as well as their associated non-departmental public bodies like the Environment Agency, Highways Agency, Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency, and Public Health England.
- Increase the supply of local air quality data and improve its quality and accessibility so as to support the development and implementation of a new strategy.
Implications for parliamentary decision-making
The discussions on air quality shed light on the more general challenges and opportunities for MPs and parliament as a whole in addressing nexus issues, including the need to:
- Overcome structural barriers.
- Recognise the crucial role of MPs.
- Understand the role of Select Committees.
- Use academic expertise better.
- Improve public engagement.
The project team prepared a short briefing paper for MPs and, in October 2015, Green Alliance convened a workshop in parliament bringing together MPs, including the chairs of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee (EFRA) and the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), with academics, other air pollution experts and representatives from local
councils. Participants discussed how to develop a strategic response to air quality; and the wider lessons it offers for other similarly complex issues. Download the note here Nexus in Parliament_Air pollution workshop in parliament__Demeritt
You can download the full report here NN Networking Report – Nexus issues in parliament_Demeritt
Image credit – with thanks to Heather Cowper on flickr.