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Addressing the temporal fit of institutions: the regulation of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in Europe

Johan Munck af Rosenschöld, Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki; Swedish School of Social Science, University of Helsinki
Nina Honkela, Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki
Janne I. Hukkinen, Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki; Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki; Department of Economics and Management, University of Helsinki


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The concept of temporal fit between biophysical systems and institutions has lately received great attention by scholars interested in environmental governance. Although we agree that the concept of temporal fit is a valuable approach for highlighting the temporal challenges of governance systems, we argue that the concept is currently lacking precision with regard to temporal complexity. We build on Barbara Adam’s work on “timescapes” to offer a more nuanced account of temporal fit and misfit. We illustrate the analytical usefulness of our approach by examining the regulation of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) within European Union’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), a case with amplified temporal challenges. We suggest that, when addressing temporal fit, two points require greater attention. First, similar to time, temporal misfits are complex. In REACH the temporal misfit is linked to four temporal features, time frame, sequence, tempo, and timing, contributing to the insufficiency of EDC regulation. Second, the temporal features are interlinked and feed back into each other, which strengthens the temporal misfit further. In conclusion, we propose that environmental impact assessment could be used as a tool to circumvent the regulatory paralysis of EDC regulation in Europe.

Key words

endocrine-disrupting chemicals; institutional fit; REACH; temporal fit; time; timescape

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087