21 years of research for the twenty-first century: revisiting the journal of environmental policy and planning


Geraint Ellis, Andrea K. Gerlak, Carsten Daugbjerg, Peter H. Feindt, Tamara Metze & Xun Wu (2020)
Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning    22(5)    569-580    Taylor & Francis Online            

In this special issue, we aim to reflect on the first 21 years of research published in the Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning (JEPP), consisting of over 600 research articles and nineteen special issues. We briefly discuss the origins and evolution of the Journal and introduce a series of 12 papers that we have invited to mark the Journal reaching this stage of maturity. We also take this opportunity to consider the strengths of the Journal, highlight what we think we could do better and plot some future direction for the Journal.

JEPP was founded with the aim of contributing to the knowledge we need for sustainable environmental governance. This remains our priority, although the deepening of the climate emergency and ecological crisis over the life of the Journal has heightened the urgency in which we make this claim. We continue to be focused on the fact that alongside the physical outcomes of these crises, there is a parallel challenge of how to democratically transform the social and political institutions that reproduce our state of unsustainability into those that can support just, circular, biobased societies (Steffen et al., 2018). We maintain that only democratic institutions are able to address the socio-ecological challenges of the twenty-first century, knowing that there is a tendency of autocratic regimes to deteriorate into kleptocratic arrangements with little regard for the broader public good. While we acknowledge that academic journals may not be the most powerful drivers of transformative change, we remain convinced that robust, probing, peer-reviewed research plays an important role in informing the effective, just, democratic, and well-reasoned strategies for sustainable development. In an age of increasingly polarized debates, populist discourse, rising concern over the trustworthiness of knowledge and declining faith in political leaders, we think that Journals such as JEPP are needed more than ever.

Such challenges are not easy to navigate, and the complexity of the questions faced by environmental governance are reflected in the articles published in JEPP. The diversity of content, contributors and intellectual traditions displayed in the Journal effectively reflects its early ambition to promote critical and interdisciplinary analyses of environmental policy and planning in all stages of the policy and planning processes; from agenda-setting to implementation and evaluation, and the interactions between governments, society and markets that frame environmental narratives and behaviours. In pursuing this agenda, we feel that JEPP has developed a recognized forum for publishing high-quality, rigorous and critical scholarly work that continually questions emerging and traditional conventions in environmental policy. Until we see the emergence of truly sustainable development, we think this is a valuable role for the Journal to maintain.