Evidence-based policy as iterative learning: the case of EU biofuels targets

Karen Anderton*, James R. Palmer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


In recent years, certain attempts to promote sustainable transport have fallen victim to the impact of ‘unintended consequences’ on decision-making and policy outcomes. The pressure that European Union biofuel targets place on global food production and the role they play in facilitating deforestation are well-known examples. This paper highlights how policy-makers’ failure to consider evidence relating to the potential impacts of biofuel mandates in the early 2000s led to a host of complex problems developing over subsequent years. Drawing on the concept of problem ‘framing’, the article then examines the extent of policy learning that has taken place since the Biofuels Directive was implemented in 2003. While acknowledging that not all eventualities can be prepared for, the article highlights the importance of enhanced communication and collaboration across different levels and departments of government in policy-making processes as a means of promoting learning, especially when dealing with complex cross-cutting and international social, environmental and economic problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-147
Number of pages10
JournalContemporary Social Science
Issue number2
Early online date15 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2015


  • biofuels
  • environmental policy
  • framing
  • indirect land-use change
  • policy learning
  • sustainability


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