EUROPTA: The Ozone Consensus Conference in Austria
This case study has been written by Helge Torgersen as part of the European Participatory Technology assessment (EUROPTA) project, commissioned by the European Commission Directorate XII. Intellectual property right and copyright © Helge Torgersen, 1999. All rights are reserved. No part of this report may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic or otherwise) for commercial gain.
The problem of tropospheric ozone accumulation in summer lead to regulatory activiy in Austria in the early Nineties. However, it soon became clear that significant reductions of ozone precursor substances can only be achieved by severe cuts in domestic traffic and energy production. Additionally, much of the precursor load in Austria gets there from abroad.
In order to be able to initiate regulatory action, an Ozone Abatement Plan was devised in 1996. As a measure to force the competent (but hesitating) federal ministry to act, government environment agencies of three eastern Austrian Länder initiated a consensus conference on tropospheric ozone in spring 1997. The aim was to investigate feasible reduction aims and strategies that could find acceptance in the general public.
After a very short preparatory phase, the conference took place in Baden near Vienna. The lay panel consisted of young people aged 18-26. The panelists were instructed during two preparatory weekends with several weeks interval, but without hearing experts. After a separate one-day expert hearing considered disappointing by attendants, the panel tried to arrive at unanimous conclusions over the following two days. This turned out to be difficult due to internal group dynamics, and the report achieved was considered rather scanty. The main message was a fundamental distrust in politicians and experts with respect to their problem solving capacity and willingness.
Consequently, there was hardly any impact, although politicians initially were ready to consider the results of the conference.
I Societal Context
Technology innovation systems
I.1 What was the issue at stake?
Tropospheric ozone is a wider techno-political problem since it touches upon several seperate technologies and/or political issues. Tropospheric ozone is considered an irritant gas; it forms under the influence of sunlight especially during summer days. Several toxic precursor substances like NOx catalyse the breakdown of molecular oxygene, rendering an agressive free radical monoatomic oxygen, which then combines with molecular oxygen to form a three-atomic and instable ozone molecule. Formation and depletion are complex processes since the same precursors may also catalyse ozone destruction again.
The problem then is how to avoid the formation of catalysing precursors, since sunlight cannot be avoided. They arise mainly from combustion processes of fossil fuels. Hence, energy production and traffic are the main sources. In addition, agriculture contributes by several processes. A main difficulty is that precursors may accumultate over time and get transported by wind over long distances. Hence, even radical local reduction strategies may prove insufficient due to trans-boundary pollution.
The problem arose over the Eighties, when a general susceptibility for environmental issues focussed on air pollution. Awareness originated from the US, where the problem had been related to US cities‘ smog syndrome. Investigations showed mainly children and sick persons being affected by ozone irritation during sunny summer days, but also vegetation in general. Not only areas with dense traffic, but also mountaneous and ‚natural‘ landscapes showed high ozone levels due to trans-boundary and climate effects. Scientific (experimental) evidence for direct harm was however difficult to establish.
Initial action was taken by issuing prohibitions for automotive traffic on days with high ozone levels. The problem was that then, it proved to be too late already to substantially reduce precursor substances. Rather, a strategy to reduce the overall level of such substances appeared necessary. This however would entail substantial cuts in energy production from fossil fuels as well as in car traffic.
The problem appeared as one of the fair allocation of burdens, as compared to benefits for those affected. It may even entail system shifts in the long run as, e.g., the replacement of energy production from fossil fuels or the implementation of electric vehicles.
I.2 What was the structure of the involved innovation systems?
This section does not fit!
Due to the very general problem mainly related to fossil fuel combustion, there were many actors involved. Apart from those that represented precursor emittents, as transport firms, automotive associations, fossil fuel producers, farmers‘ associations, etc., there was hardly any societal actor that remained unaffected. Agriculture was equally contributing to the problem as well as suffering form it (due to losses from reduced crop growth). Tourism being dependant on car traffic contributed indirectly, but suffered from tourists‘ anxieties over high ozone levels. Due to the very general corporatist system of the Austrian ‚social partnership‘, representatives from trade unions, the workers‘ chamber, the chamber of commerce, the chambers of agriculture and the industrialists‘ association got involved, as well as environmental NGOs, automotive asociations, etc..
Governments interest was to devise a regulation in order to show activity in reducing the problem. However, measures to reduce precursor levels met the problem that airborne precursors originated from various neighbouring countries. Everybody agreed that something had to be done. Scientific experts as well as NGOs demanded action eliciting broad public support. However, the problem of burden shareing was intricate. Automotive associations denied that the problem had arisen only from car traffic and were against severe driving prohibitions. Industry being dependant on car transport pointed to other sources or denied that the problem was severe. Agriculture pointed to the fact that they were hit by the problem themselves, but at the same time they were unable to reduce precursors (e.g. from animal ruminants). Finally, all agreed that trans-boundary sources could not be reduced by national regulation at all, and that it was an all-European problem to be solved on an EU level.
I.3 Was there a political tradition of involving the public/citizens in decision-making processes?
See other Austrian case studies
There is a traditional antagonism between the federal level and the Länder level, which has partly to do with the predominance of different political parties at the different levels (usually more socialist at the federal level, more conservative at the Länder level). In this case, it was the other way round: the competent ministry was goverened by a conservative minister within the grand coalition between Social Democrats and the conservative Peoples‘ Party, and two of the Länder involved had a social democratic government.
Frequently, actors on both levels act in parallel and/or compete each other, which entails that solutions sometimes get delayed.
I.4 Was there a tradition of involving the public/citizens in policy making processes in "technology related issues"?
See other Austrian case studies
I.5 What was the role of public authorities with respect to the decision making on the technology involved?
After a federally owned research institute had issued a study on possible reduction strategies for precursor substances in 1993, political actors agreed to develop a general plan on how to reduce ozone precursor substances. This plan was agreed on in 1994. It provided for a general ‚Ozone Conference‘ to be held on high (federal) level in order to devise means to implement reduction strategies in a coordinated approach between the communal, Länder and federal level, and to take action also on the EU level. This conference, however, never took place. Representatives of the Länder as well as some experts saw the reason for this in a reluctance of the Federal Ministry to engage in a broad debate. Also partly due to party reasoning, a controversy arose between the federal and the Länder level.
The Länder of Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland were most hardly hit by the ozone problem. On the other hand, they contributed a major share of precursor substances, since around Vienna there is a lot if industry, and many people commute on a daily base into the city of Vienna from Lower Austria or from Burgenland. Hence, regulators were particularly aware of the problem. They sought to move things by actively engaging into what they saw as a preparatory phase that should lead to the high level conference already mentioned.
I.6 What was the role of public authorities with respect to the social debate/controversy?
Political parties reacted to the challenge by publicly acknowledging the problem. Solutions proposed, however, were different according to the differnt clienteles’ interests. The conservative party kept an eye on the interests of business and on those that had to commute from the Länder into the big cities (since the Länder were ruled mostly by conservative majorities, as opposed to the big cities), but also on those of agriculture. The Social Democrats were more inclined to devise stronger measures. The populist Freedom party took the part of the car drivers, and the Greens were major promotors of a restrictive policy.
The political role of the small Länder environmental protection agencies that set up the PTA arrangement was rather restricted, since they did not have any influence on federal policy. It appeared as if they applied a consensus conference type of procedure in order to put pressure on the more hesitant federal actor, the Ministry of Environment.
Technology controversy and public sphere
I.7 What was the social debate/controversy around the issue at stake (in the pTA arrangement) about?
In the mid-Seventies and Eighties in Austria, public controversies over technological issues mainly on energy production had questioned the faith in technological progress. Shortly before the PTA arrangement took place, a major controversy had been going on on biotechnology for agriculture and food production, featuring an illegal release of GMOs and a hugely successful ‚Peoples‘ initiative‘ (a kind of institutionalised petition), calling for a ban. All that had seriously shattered the trust in expert advice and technological remedies, as well as in the capability of the political system to find solutions for environmental problems.
Tropospheric ozone had become an issue over the eighties, when alarming reports on the irritant and toxic nature of the substance were issued by scientists and popularised by NGOs. Counter expertise stated that actual harm could not be established, and if so, only with sick or older people or small children. Mothers got alarmed, and a telephone hotline was installed by the Ministry of Environment. Public debate arising from such reports centered on those emittents of precursor substances that were easily accessible, mostly car traffic.
The issue became a major shocker over the next summers, but always depending on weather conditions and other issues that could absorb media interest. Since the problem only arose during summertime, press coverage and presence in the political discourse of the theme was mainly restricted to the summer months. This seasonal restriction made it not easier to come to a solution in the long term.
The problem nevertheless added to an increasing unease about the negative impacts of car use in general. Driving prohibitions as issued later, on the one hand, were seen as a means to assign responsibility to those that pollute the environment, on the other hand, such measures were deemed insufficient, since other major pollutors were not included. Therefore car drivers and their associations as well as the transport sector pointed at an inequal distribution of the burden of reducing tropospheric ozone precursors.
Being very complex, the issue was considered mainly a political one, and solutions therefore must be found in a political way. The development of an appropriate regulation had to build on expertise as well as on appropriate burden sharing. Hence, questions of a doubtful scientific evidence of harm as well as intricate equity issues were at stake.
I.8 Was there public awareness on the issue at stake at the time of the pTA arrangement taking place?
Mostly whistle-blowing came from NGOs like Greenpeace, but also from organisations combatting car traffic. Ozone appeared as one more problem related to the ever increasing pollution by automobiles. The ‚enemy‘, so to say, was car use, and not so much the complex web of different sources of precursor substances from combustion engines to agriculture. It also appeared as mostly home-made, and hence susceptible to local solutions like driving prohibitions. So the problem got embedded in a more general discourse on the modern society’s dependance on cars.
On the other hand, driving prohibitions cut into personal behaviour and were seen as inappropriate by many. Especially those dependant on their car for commuting considered their personal contribution to the problem as minor, compared to enegy production and trans-boundary sources, for example.
The PTA arrangement took place in June, hence, in a summer month where the problem usually started to become pressing. However, at the time of the arrangement, weather conditions were bad, so no significant amounts of ozone developped, and the media remained relatively silent on the issue. General awareness was therefore rather low.
I.9 Were demands for more participation/democracy expressed in the social debate?
In general, such demands are selcomly expressed in Austria since they usually do not lead to any change. However, as a general feature and not only related to the case in question, trust in experts had begun to erode. Nevertheless, politicians are mostly expected to find a solution that fits all interests, which they obviously are unable to and hence, attract criticism relating to the decision-making process.
I.10 Was the public controversy/debate politicised in a way that pro and con-positions could be identified according to political party positions; or did it cut across party positions?
Clearly, different parties supported their clientele. For example, the conservative party spoke against undue burden for industry which would undermine competitiveness, whereas the socialist party took the part of those that had to commute by car. In general, however, the issue was not strictly party dependent, since interests were distributed across party boundaries.
II Institutional Context
II.1 What was the formal setting of the (TA) organisation responsible for organising the pTA arrangement?
The arrangement was not carried out by a professional independant TA organisation; rather, it was set up by a government agency called the Wiener Umweltanwaltschaft (WUA), the environmental protection agency of the City of Vienna’s government (Vienna, due to ist size, is a Land as well as a city). They shared responsibility for the consensus conference with similar agencies of two other Länder in the same region of Austria, Lower Austria and Burgenland, but those two did not actively engage in the setup or the process.
WUA’s tasks are fourfold: they have to review new regulations before they get enacted, they have to represent public interests on behalf of the environment in official trials, they have to provide councelling to and receive complaints from citizens, and finally they prepare reports indicating new areas of environmental interest emerging. The consensus conference was part of the latter activity.
Most work on the consensus conference was done by one highly motivated and dedicated woman, who spent one year with the project. Additional expertise was drawn in by contracting a professor of environmental law of the Vienna Technical University, who had experience in participatory procedures applied mostly in siting conroversies.
II.2 What was the external perception of the (TA) organisation?
The institution is an agency belonging to the government of the city of Vienna. However, it was perceived as being somewhat independent from direct political and economic pressure, since its task was to supervise environmental protection measures and to counsel the public and redirect complaints. Although tiny and not very visible in the general public, its reputation was that of standing somewhat apart from the daily political and regulatory business. Outputs had some repercussions mainly among those immediately interested in the issues dealt with.
There were generally good relations to various other governmental organisations both at the communal, Länder or federal level, as far as working relations are concerned. There might, however, arise politically motivated difficulties due to the multi-layered system and to party considerations.
Structures and procedures
II.3 What were the financial and human resources available to the (TA) organisation?
WUA gets its money directly from the Vienna City government. It had never before engaged in a TA activity, so it set apart only one person for one year and funded additional expertise to a very modest amount. Other partners contributed very little money, and almost no manpower. The overall amount for the PTA arrangement was not more than AS 500,000 plus one person year as well as some secretarial work on an occasional base. Consulting support (by the Technical University professor mentioned) was offered free of charge.
WUA’s staff is 10 persons, so there are only less than two person-years for their report preparing activity. The consensus conference was one of several report activities going on at that time, so the institutional constraints were heavy. WUA’s leader confessed that they had underestimated the workload, and that they met serious difficulties.
II.4 How were TA projects selected and designed?
In this single case, the project idea was developed and the plan was set up by one person within the WUA, in accordance with her director. Since WUA is a governmental agency, it is dependant on the goodwill of the City of Vienna government, which agreed to the plan of performing a consensus conference on this topic.
The proposal was also well met by the environmental agencies of the Länder Niederösterreich and Burgenland, although they declared themselves unable to substantially contribute. Nevertheless, they shared the resonsibility in the project team. Similar to WUA, they had no TA experience.
II.5 Did pTA constitute an integral part of the organisation’s understanding of TA?
TA in a strict sense seemed to be a new activity to the agency. However, the task of WUA, besides overseeing environmental protection measures, was to write reports on various environmental issues as a policy advice. In order to do so, stakeholder opinion was sometimes referred to, but only on a case-to-case base.
Since with many major new projects possibly affecting environmental issues, new regulations demand participation by those affected. Conflicting interests have to be mediated in order to arrive at a possible solution, for example in siting controversies. Consequently, WUA gets interested in new methods of conflict resolution, like strategic environmental audits or mediation. The consensus conference model appeared as a particular new instrument in this direction and hence, was interesting from a future application point of view.
III pTA arrangement
III.A Set-up and process
III.A.1 What were the overall characteristics of the pTA arrangement?
The PTA arrangement followed the well-known general pattern of a consensus conference as outlined by the Danish Board of Technology. Hence, participation of lay people was at the centre of the arrangement. The organisers had held contact with the Danish Board, as well with an expert in consensus conferences from Britain, in order to follow the prescription as closely as possible. There were, however, some peculiarities, for example in that the lay persons were young people only (see below). There was no independent formal advisory board, but a project team consisting of representatives from the three Länder involved.
The arrangement took place in spring 1997. The idea had been developped since autumn 1996, and the initial phase started in January 1997. Until March, the overall outline was sketched out, the project team was installed (consisting from representatives of the three Länder, headed by WUA). From March to April 1997, the participants of the lay panel were chosen, and experts were nominated. The organisers selected publications for the instruction of the lay panel and organised the preparatory workshops. From April to May, the workshops were held and public relations were organised. The main event started with an expert hearing on 20. June, 1997, and ended after a two-day consensus conference on the 23. June with a press conference. Evaluation and writing of the report took another three months, so that the whole project could be finished within less than a year.
During the two preparatory weekends, emphasis was laid both on the factual background of the problem and on group dynamics and debate skills. In order to be able to document extensively, the discussions were protocolled, taped and videorecorded. No experts were admitted at these weekends, rather, a one-day expert hearing was held before the conference proper. The conference was held in an official building in Baden near Vienna, in a room resembling a court room.
The actual preparatory period was very short (January to March), since the report should be available within June 1997 (i.e. before summer, when ozone accumulation was expected to become a publicly discussed problem again), and the idea to hold such a conference was developed as late as in Autumn 1996. Also, the effort was intended to be limited in terms of person-years, but it soon turned out that the original estimates were too optimistic.
III.A.2 What kind of and how many participants were involved at what times during the pTA arrangement?
The lay panel consisted of 15 young people between 16 and 28 years old. They attended two preparatory weekends, the expert hearing and the consensus conference proper (one weekend).
16 experts attended a one-day hearing before the consensus conference proper. Among them, there were politicians, stakeholders from industry, business, automotive associations, agriculture, trade unions, environmental NGOs, and a journalist. Further experts covered traffic planning, environmental law, environmental medicine, and natural sciences (physics). All experts provided their insights free of charge.
III.A.3 How were participants selected?
The project team selected the members of the lay panel among motivated young people, who had sent a written application in answering an information sheet that had been distributed at schools, universities and among youth organisations, over selected mailboxes and in the Austrian Broadcasting’s teletext. Budget restrictions prevented newspaper advertisments.
It was the aim to select a balance sample according to the criteria of age, gender, education, profession, residence, marital status, children, interests, affiliation with stakeholder groups and clubs.
III.A.4 Which participants took what kind of decisions?
The project team set both the agenda and choose the participants. Ther was no further participation possible with respect to agenda setting or choice of participants.
Since the organisers tried to influence the lay panel as little as possible, they provided within the first preparatory weekend an elaborate list of publications, both scientific reports, press clippings, general interest reading and stake holders’ declarations. There were four areas: general information about ozone as a noxious agent, emittors and groups of emittors, regulatory framework, and political background. Each publication received a tag indicating bibliographic notes including key words. The publications were supposed to be read within the time span between the workshops (eight weeks), which obviously was not achieved by all members of the lay panel. Additionally, videos specially prepared or available from official agencies describing some aspects of the problem were shown at the workshops. Beyond the publications provided, no further input was demanded.
III.A.5 What were the rules of communication of the pTA arrangement?
As with any consensus conference, the communication process started with an explanatory weekend in a hotel on the countryside where the lay panel was instructed about the problem at stake and the set-up of the conference. Emphasis was also laid on terminology, group dynamics, and argumentation strategies in a face-to-face situation with experts, given the fact that most participants in the lay panel had little experience. Hence, the group also engaged in co-operation and bargaining simulation plays. Finally, the ‚master question‘ was introcuced: „Which demands are there for our society considering the prognoses on ozone accumulation, the reduction aims and the measures proposed; and what can we do in order to meet the demands?" The wording of the question appeared to be too clumsy in retrospect, and it was difficult for the panel to deal with it.
The second workshop served to prepare for the hearing and the consensus finding process. The lay panel decided to do without formal mediation and remain on their own in seeking a consensus. Early on, any dissenting or minority vote in the final paper was decided to be inacceptable.
During the expert hearing, experts held short statements and, after a break, engaged in a debate with each other and answered questions posed by the lay panel. The hearing was open to the public, but visitors were not allowed to directly engage in the debate. In principle, each participant had equal opportunities to express him/herself. However, inputs from the lay panel were less pronounced than the set-up would have allowed for.
The consensus conference was then held behind closed doors without facilitator.
III.A.6 How did the process of communication develop during the pTA arrangement?
According to the organisers, the lay panel was extremely sensitive from the very beginning to any perceived attempts to influence them. Therefore they did not want any facilitator or mediator to coach them. On the other hand, they decided to approach consensus by all means, which put an additional pressure on them. The distrust by the panel members against virtually everybody made it difficult to achieve the goals set by the organisers. Another problem was that group dynamics among the lay panel seemed to be unfavourable to a common solution, which in turn made it even more difficult to eventually achieve a consensus.
Under the expert hearing, the initial statments from the experts were close to what could be expected from their affiliation, respectively. It appeared as if they were adressing mostly their collegues, whom they had met before on many occasions where they had discussed the same ore related issues in corporatist negotiations. Consequently, according to one attendant, they did not dare to transgress their very restricted field of expertise. Others would not leave their role as stakeholders, presenting well-known stakeholders‘ views and avoiding points to consider that could turn out to be unfavourable for them, since they knew that they would soon meet again in negotiations over the same issue. Obviously, there was a strong implicit social control among them, in the face of their peers, of the media present and of the public attending.
Another problem was that some of the experts did not succeed to apply a language that could be easyly understood by lay people. The result was that it appeared as if there were no policy options at all. The lay panel’s reaction was mere frustration, which in turn increased the general suspicion and the lack of trust in experts and politicians. It appeared to them as if experts and politicians (being in the experts‘ group) did dnot want to find sensible solutions.
III.A.7 What kind of unintended events occurred during the pTA arrangement and how did they affect the pTA process?
The organisers originally had intended to provide mediation for the lay panel. The fact that the lay panel did turn down the proposal to use this service came as a surprise to the organisers and caused severe concerns, since the group dynamics of the panel was known to be somewhat difficult.
Another unintended fact was that there was no sunshine over the period before the conference, so that the ozone problem was not in the media and, hence, coverage was less than anticipated.
III.B Values, assumptions and goals
III.B.1 How did the various involved actors (implementers, participants, and other involved actors (e.g. members of the steering committee, board members, advisors, researchers, project team members, client, etc.)) define the issue at stake?
The organisers tried to find out what could be a socially sustainable policy in order to reduce ozone precursor substances. It was an experiment to see how far a regulation could go without loosing public support. Since the issue was one of burden sharing in the light of conflicting values, any solution would put pressure on some of the actors.
Politicians had been very reluctant to propose far-reaching restrictions on car use or energy production. Such measures would be very unpopular, and they did not want to engage into such a contentious issue. A consensus conference could deliver valuable insights where compromises could be achieved, beyond the usual way of corporatist negotiations within the ‚social partenership‘, and they could serve as a legitimation for unpopular measures to come.
III.B.2 How did the implementers, participants and other involved actors (e.g. members of the steering committee, board members, advisors, researchers, project team members, client, etc.) wanted the problem to be treated within the pTA?
Both the organisers, the experts and the politicians involved looked for clear-cut options as a basis for further political measures, as for example proposals for thresholds, prohibitions, sharing of burdens, etc. Thus they hoped to see a very focussed approach. For the organisers, a more focussed result could have helped to re-engage the federal ministry.
The lay panel, on the other hand, did not want to take on responsibility for such measures. The final report did not provide clear-cut options, rather, it emphasised the responsibility of politics to find such solutions. It pointed at the fundamental distrust of the panel members in politicians and experts, and called for more grass-root responsibility to be taken by the citizens. This was absolutely useless for politicians and, hence, the report did not have any immediate political impacts.
Definition of participation
III.B.3 What kind of participatory processes did the implementers and other social actors expect within the pTA arrangement?
Ironically, politicians had initially (during the first press conference at the beginning of the arrngement) guaranteed appropriate implementation of the conference‘s findings, in a way that was unexpected to most. However, the lay panel seemed to be unaware of this rather far-reaching offer, and the organisers did not want to make it clear to the lay panel in order not to jeopardise what they saw as an ‚authentic‘ outcome, as opposed to a ‚strategic‘ vote that could have been the result of the panel realising its potential. However, the outcome did not meet up the expectations of both the organisers and the politicians involved, in terms of conciseness, practicality and options for problem solution.
After the conference, some members of the lay panel regretted the lost opportunity, but then it was too late.
III.B.4 Why did the various actors engage themselves in the pTA arrangement?
The organisers had a dual agenda: firstly, they wanted to try out the new method of a consensus conference, since it promised to be a valuable tool for further confilct resolution strategies. Secondly, the ozone abatement plan was ill-met by the Federal Environment Ministry, which entailed that, in general, nothing would happen for quite a while, and that there would not be held any big ozone conference in particular. However, without co-operation on the federal level there was no chance of tackling the problem of trans-boundary precursor distribution. So the organisers intended the consensus conference to serve as an initiator or a kick-off event in order to keep things going and to put political pressure on the federal minstry.
The lay panel members obviously were interested in the issue, and some of them had esxperiences in positions like pupils‘ representatives at school parliaments. A certain aspect of self-presentation may have been a motivation in some cases.
Experts attended mostly because their fellow expert collegues also did – it was a kind of snowball effect, in the tradition of corporatist negotiations.
Rationale for pTA
III.B.5 What were the main reasons for selecting and setting up this pTA arrangement?
See above: The aim weas to try out the method and to initiate a political process by putting pressure on the federal level actor. Another intention by some of the organisers was to initiate a public learning process which could take society towards a more participation-friendly political culture.
From the point of view of content, the result of the conference was intended to show how far a policy could go with respect to impose restrictions on individual actors without loosing support in the public. It was seen as an experiment in developing burden-sharing options, which however failed.
Since the project of a consensus conference was something new in the poitical landscape, there was a need of certain dedicated persons who would carry out the task of preparing the first such event. Eventually, such a person emerged within an agency that was able to initiate such a process. Astonishingly, she met considerable support with many institutions within the Länder governments, however not before she made sure that she was going to do the job, and others could just sit on.
III.C.1 What products did the pTA arrangement produce?
After the consensus conference, a final report was issued by the lay panel, which was then presented in a press conference intended to popularise the findings. According to some experts and to some of the organisers, it was considered too ‚thin‘, since there were no concrete no proposals for action, and emphasis was laid on a general statement of distrust.
Additionally, a very detailed report was written by the organiser, where she very critically commented the process and the outcome. The book also contained articles from outside commentators and from representatives of the the institutions responsible for the conference, as well as press clippings. The book was not reviewed externally.
Text transformations were not an integral part of the set-up. The book mentioned elaborated on the lay panel’s final report, among other issues.
III.C.2 How did the communication with the outside world take place?
In the beginning, theere was a press conference which was well-met. The press conference at the end of the conference, where the final report was issued, could not live up to the expectations. The fact that a journalist was among the expert group did not have any significant impact. However, media presence during the hearing might have contributed to the experts reluctance to leave their stakeholders‘ role, as well as to the little enthusiastic querying of the lay panel.
III.C.3 How was the pTA arrangement covered in the media?
The first press conference elicited widespread newspaper echoe. Most quality newspaper reported the initiation of a consens conference on the ozone problem. Media coverage of the expert hearing was scarce, although a special radio broadcast was prepared. Some articles appeared even during the preparatory phase of immediately bevor the conference proper started. The final press conference had a somewhat split media echoe: some newspapers reported about the final report without commenting, most seemed to have difficulties to get ‚the story‘. Nevertheless, the overall tendency was rather friendly, but somewhat distant. Others pointed at shortcomings, which were seen as emerging from the complexity of the issue at stake, and of the limited room for maneouvres for politics in general. A prominent theme was the plea for more engagement by the citizens themselves.
Media coverage soon faded, and there were hardly any repercussions later. The WUA hattended a hearing with the environmental seledt committee of the Vienna parliament, but that did not elicit any media reaction obviously.
III.C.4 How were the pTA arrangement and the policy making process related?
Possible answers are e.g., no formal link; political decision making was suspended during pTA; product of pTA was formal input to the political decision making process; pTA result was actually a formal political decision, etc.
As in every consensus conference, there was no formal link between the outcome and the political answer. However, politicians had initially declared to implement the findings if ever possible, which obviously was hardly possible. Decision-making was not suspended, but there was hardly anything going on anyways.
III.C.5 What was the impact of the pTA arrangement?
To date, there have not been any changes in decision-making in the field of ozone policy that could be traced back to the findings of the consensus conference. In general, the issue has mostly disappeared from the political agenda in general.
Concerning the role of consensus conferences as a policy tool, the organisers are very reluctant to engage in a similar project. According to the leader of WUA, the outcome does not match the input. Obviously, the organisers had underestimated the necessary effort.
After the conference, members of the lay panel stated that theyx had learned a lot, but that they had not been able or willing to translate their new knowledge into feasible policy options. Most of them acknowledged the necessity for an increased engagement into politics.
Last update: 08-05-2002