From Global Targets to Local Policies and Back

The Role of Sub-National Governments for Vertical Policy Integration of Biodiversity

This PhD project aims to investigate the potentials and barriers of sub-national levels for policy integration of biodiversity. At the international level, members of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), including Germany, have committed themselves to halting the loss of biodiversity. However, according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), this can only be achieved by "advancing and aligning local, national and international sustainability efforts and mainstreaming biodiversity [...]" (IPBES 2019, 17).

Theoretical framework

Analytically, this policy integration of biodiversity can be examined both along policy levels (vertically) and into individual sectors (horizontally). Especially in federal countries such as Germany, the consideration of such coordination processes at all political levels is crucial, especially since federal states and municipalities have central competencies in biodiversity policy.
The theoretical starting point for this work is an analytical scheme by Candel (2019), which identifies four dimensions to classify the degree of policy integration (policy frame; subsystem involvement; policy goals; policy instruments) and cites integrative capacities and integrative leadership as explanatory variables.

Work steps

For this purpose, the first phase of work focuses on the state policy level of Germany and the context of the state biodiversity strategies and action plans (SBSAPs). Meanwhile, 15 out of 16 states in Germany have their own SBSAP, which are meant to complement the National Biodiversity Strategy and guide policy integration across sectors. While the literature assesses the successes in the horizontal integration direction at the national level as meager, a deeper scientific analysis of the vertical direction and sub-national level has so far been lacking. Thus, questions about coherent goal-setting, joint capacity building or learning processes between the political spheres have remained unanswered so far.
In order to close this gap, a series of interviews with representatives of all state environmental ministries will be conducted to gain first insights into the barriers and levers of policy integration. Based on this, a broader spectrum of actors (associations, land users, NGOs, etc.) of selected federal states will be consulted and corresponding hypotheses from the first project phase will be tested. Thereby, conclusions on "institutional lock-ins", networks and power relations as well as insights into coordination and evaluation mechanisms shall be identified. For the further work steps, an in-depth consideration of the municipal perspective is planned, as well as international comparisons of the investigated aspects.

Personal aim & supervision

The personal aim is to not only make the resulting recommendations for a more effective cooperation available to the scientific discourse, but also to introduce them directly into socio-political decision-making processes through appropriate publications and direct exchange with policy makers and the public.
The work is funded by a grant from the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU) and formally supervised by Prof. Dr. Michael Böcher at Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, and Dr. Yves Zinngrebe and Dr. Frank Hüesker at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) Leipzig.


Candel, J. (2019): The expediency of policy integration. Policy Studies, 1-16. doi: 10.1080/01442872.2019.1634191.

IPBES - Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (2019): The global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services – Summary for Policymakers. IPBES Secretariat. Bonn.