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How do you measure the impact of a complex economic crisis upon a wide-ranging issue like the environment? This Research Note is the first peer-reviewed publication from the Leverhulme-funded project that seeks to assess the impacts of the economic crisis upon European environmental policy. Led by Charlotte Burns, the project seeks to measure exactly how the crisis has manifested environmentally. We note three main measures for environmental change – the means (budgets), the outputs (policies), and the outcomes (direct environmental changes)  – and suggest all three should be combined to create a ‘toolkit’ for measuring change. We hope that this toolkit may also be applicable to other policy fields, too.


The ongoing European economic crisis provides a focus for academics wishing to understand the relationship between major exogenous shocks and changes to environmental protection. Yet, measuring change, particularly to policies, is notoriously fraught with difficulties. This research note explores the conceptual and methodological challenges associated with capturing change in response to the economic crisis in Europe, specifically focusing upon the environment. The environment is typically touted as a European Union success story, but there is good reason to suspect that this policy sector may have been – and continues to be – negatively affected by the economic downturn. We suggest a toolkit of measures that can capture changes to this sector, and which may also be employed by researchers of other policy sectors.