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Keywords:

  • governance;
  • sustainability;
  • accountability;
  • UK biotechnology/waste incineration/transport policy

Abstract

This article provides a conceptual framework for, and comparative analysis of, public accountability in relation to three recent British exemplars of governance for sustainability: the GM Nation public consultation on the use of genetically modified crops in agriculture; the South East London Combined Heat and Power waste incinerator to achieve a shift away from landfill waste disposal; and the London Underground public–private partnership to provide more long-term financial and technological investment in a key area of public transport. Each of these initiatives is characterized by distinct public accountability features arising partly from the context-specific tensions between environmental sustainability and economic and technological development, and partly from the particular governance processes at work. Together, these features point to several significant accountability shortcomings facing the governance of sustainable development, including: the compartmentalization of decision-making processes; the blurring of boundaries of responsibility; the prevalence of professional-technocratic discourses; and the marginalization of publicity. The article concludes by outlining measures to improve accountability in the governance for sustainability. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.