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Understanding environmental policy convergence the power of words, rules and money

Understanding Environmental Policy Convergence

Over recent decades national environmental policies have become
increasingly alike. This book analyses the driving forces of this process of policy convergence, providing an in-depth empirical analysis
of the international forces at work. It does so by investigating how
four countries – France, Hungary, Mexico and the Netherlands – have
shaped their domestic environmental policies in the context of international institutions and relationships, while taking into account various domestic factors and national conditions. Employing a qualitative
approach, the authors seek to deepen understanding of the processes
and mechanisms through which international forces such as legal
harmonisation, institutionalised information flows and global trade
dynamics affect domestic environmental policy change. Together with
its companion volume Environmental Policy Convergence in Europe: The
Impact of International Institutions and Trade (2008) this book provides a
‘showcase’ of mixed methodologies, combining quantitative and qualitative approaches in an innovative way.
      ¨      is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Political and
Social Sciences of the Freie Universit¨at Berlin and managing director
of the Environmental Policy Research Centre (FFU).
             is Professor of European Politics in the Depart¨ University, Germany, where she
ment of Social Sciences at Osnabruck
also holds a Jean Monnet Chair and directs the Jean Monnet Centre of
Excellence on European Studies. In addition, she teaches at the College

of Europe in Bruges.
                is Assistant Professor in the Department
of Political Sciences of the Environment, Institute for Management
Research, at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands.



Understanding Environmental
Policy Convergence
The Power of Words, Rules and Money
edited by

¨
Helge Jorgens,
Andrea Lenschow
and Duncan Liefferink


University Printing House, Cambridge CB2 8BS, United Kingdom
Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge.
It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of
education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence.
www.cambridge.org
Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9781107037823
C

Cambridge University Press 2014

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without the written
permission of Cambridge University Press.
First published 2014
Printed in the United Kingdom by CPI Group Ltd, Croydon CR0 4YY
A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data
Understanding environmental policy convergence : the power of words, rules
¨
and money / [edited by] Helge Jorgens,


Andrea Lenschow, Duncan Liefferink.
pages cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-107-03782-3 (hardback)
1. Environmental policy – International cooperation – Case studies.
2. Environmental management – International cooperation – Case studies.
3. Global environmental change – International cooperation – Case studies.
¨
I. Jorgens,
Helge, 1967– II. Lenschow, Andrea. III. Liefferink, Duncan.
GE170.U535 2013
363.7′ 0561 – dc23
2013022105
ISBN 978-1-107-03782-3 Hardback
Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of
URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication,
and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain,
accurate or appropriate.


Contents

List of figures
List of tables
List of contributors
Preface
List of abbreviations

page vii
viii
x
xii
xiv

1 Introduction: theoretical framework and
research design
                ,       ¨     
               
2 Is there convergence of national environmental
policies? An analysis of policy outputs in
24 OECD countries
 ,  
  
3 Regulation of industrial discharges into surface water
              ,                   
4 Taming the ‘tiger in the tank’: explaining the
convergence of limit values for lead in petrol
  -         

1

39

64

104

5 Cross-national convergence of traffic noise policies
               

140

6 National policies for cleaning up contaminated sites
            

175

7 Converging ideas about risk regulation? The
precautionary principle in national legal systems
               

209

v


vi

Contents

8 From the outside in: explaining convergence in the
legal recognition of the sustainability principle
  -                   ¨     
9 Complex causation in cross-national environmental
policy convergence
            ,                   
      ¨     
Index

237

265

296


Figures

2.1
2.2
2.3
3.1
3.2
3.3
3.4
3.5
4.1
4.2
4.3
4.4
4.5
4.6
4.7
5.1
5.2
6.1
8.1

Environmental policies: early adoptions, 1970–2000
page 51
Environmental policies: linear adoptions, 1970–2000
52
Environmental policies: late adoptions, 1970–2000
53
Limit values for lead
66
Limit values for chromium
66
Limit values for copper
67
Limit values for zinc
67
Limit values for biological oxygen demand
68
Limit values in France, Hungary, Mexico and the
Netherlands, 1970–2000
105
Convergence of limit values across twenty-four countries,
1970–2000
106
Net exports of petrol from France, Hungary, Mexico and
the Netherlands, 1970–2000
117
Evolution of limit values for lead in petrol in Hungary,
1969–2000
120
Evolution of limit values for lead in petrol in the
Netherlands, 1978–2000
124
Evolution of limit values for lead in petrol in Mexico,
1986–2000
128
Evolution of limit values for lead in petrol in France,
1967–2000
131
National noise emission standards from lorries, 1970–2000
143
Motorway noise emissions standards since 1970
144
Comparison of the phasing of policy on contaminated sites
201
The incorporation of the sustainability principle into
domestic environmental laws, 1985–2000
241

vii


Tables

1.1 Mechanisms of policy convergence
page 18
1.2 Case study countries
20
1.3 Selection of policy items according to trade-related
expectations
26
1.4 Characteristics of policy items
27
2.1 Environmental policies: adoption rates (%) for forty
policies, 1970–2000
48
2.2 Policy adoptions over time by country, 1970–2000
50
2.3 Variation coefficients for twenty-one setting items,
1970–2000
54
2.4 Changes in regulatory mean for twenty-one settings,
1970–2000
57
2.5 Beta-convergence, twenty-one settings, 1970–2000
58
2.6 Gamma-convergence, twenty-one settings, 1970–2000
60
3.1 Selected international efforts indirectly affecting standard
setting for the discharge of chromium, copper, lead, zinc
and BOD into surface water
70
3.2 Phases and mechanisms of policy convergence in France
79
3.3 Phases and mechanisms of policy convergence in the
Netherlands
85
3.4 Phases and mechanisms of policy convergence in Hungary
91
3.5 Phases and mechanisms of policy convergence in Mexico
97
4.1 Selected international efforts aiming at the reduction of
lead in petrol
113
4.2 Summary of relevant mechanisms in the Hungarian case
123
4.3 Summary of relevant mechanisms in the Dutch case
127
4.4 Summary of relevant mechanisms in the Mexican case
130
4.5 Summary of relevant mechanisms in the French case
134
5.1 National noise emission standards for lorries in dB(A) in
twenty-four countries
143
5.2 Legally binding international regulations and
international policy recommendations
151
viii


List of tables

5.3 The main impacts and causal mechanisms affecting policy
change in Hungary
5.4 The main impacts and causal mechanisms affecting policy
change in France
5.5 The main impacts and causal mechanisms affecting policy
change in the Netherlands
5.6 The main impacts and causal mechanisms affecting policy
change in Mexico
6.1 Review of the first governmental plan or legislation
specifically on contaminated sites up to 2000 in
twenty-four countries
6.2 Core dimensions in designing policy to clean up
contaminated sites
6.3 Overview of main plans and legislation on contaminated
sites in the Netherlands
6.4 Driving forces for policy developments in the Netherlands
6.5 Overview of legislation and policy plans on contaminated
sites in France
6.6 Driving forces for policy developments in France
6.7 Overview of legislation and policy plans on contaminated
sites in Hungary
6.8 Driving forces for policy developments in Hungary
6.9 Overview of the regulation on contaminated sites in
Mexico
6.10 Driving forces for policy developments in Mexico
7.1 The precautionary principle in national and EU
environmental laws
7.2 The most important legally binding obligations and policy
recommendations on the precautionary principle
7.3 The main mechanisms causing convergence/divergence in
the case study countries
8.1 Summary of relevant mechanisms
9.1 Submechanisms of transnational communication
(excerpted from Table 1.1)

ix

156
160
165
169

178
179
182
188
189
193
194
197
198
200
211
214
232
260
270


Contributors

    -          is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department
of Economics and Social Sciences, University of Potsdam.
                is a Research Fellow at the Chair of Comparative Public Policy and Administration, University of Konstanz.
    .                     is Chair of International Relations
and Conflict Management, University of Konstanz.
        ¨      is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Political
and Social Sciences of the Freie Universit¨at Berlin and managing director
of the Environmental Policy Research Centre (FFU).
    .                 is Chair of Comparative Public Policy
and Administration, University of Konstanz.
    .                is Professor of European Politics in
¨ University, Germany,
the Department of Social Sciences at Osnabruck
where she also holds a Jean Monnet Chair and directs the Jean Monnet
Centre of Excellence on European Studies. In addition, she teaches at
the College of Europe in Bruges.
                  is Assistant Professor in the Department
of Political Sciences of the Environment, Institute for Management
Research, at Radboud University Nijmegen.
           is a Research Fellow on the ConsEnSus Project,
Geography Department, Trinity College Dublin.
                  is a Senior Lecturer in Regulation in the
School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast.
                is a Research Fellow in the Department of
Political Science, Stockholm University.

x


List of contributors

xi

         is a Research Fellow at the Mannheim Centre for
European Social Research (MZES), University of Mannheim.
               is Assistant Professor in the Department of
Political Sciences of the Environment, Radboud University Nijmegen.


Preface

Over the past decades, national environmental policies have become
increasingly alike. This book analyses the causal mechanisms that drive
this process of policy convergence. The book is the result of a collaborative European research project conducted by Christoph Knill (coordinator, University of Konstanz), Bas Arts (University of Wageningen),
¨
Katharina Holzinger (University of Konstanz), Helge Jorgens
(Free Uni¨
versity Berlin), Andrea Lenschow (University of Osnabruck)
and Duncan
Liefferink (University of Nijmegen). Research for this project was funded
under the Fifth Framework Programme of the European Commission
within the RTD programme ‘Improving the human research potential
and the socio-economic knowledge base’, contract no. HPSE-CT-2002–
00103. This financial support allowed us to build an excellent team of
senior and junior researchers who either joined us for the entire research
project or stayed only for part of the project: Johan Albrecht, Per-Olof
Busch, Stephan Heichel, Jelmer Kamstra, Tobias Meier, Jeroen Ooijevaar, Jessica Pape, Dieter Pesendorfer, Maren Riepe, Thomas Sommerer,
Jale Tosun, Sietske Veenman and Natascha Warta.
This book is the second of two volumes presenting the findings of
the ENVIPOLCON project. The first book presenting a quantitative
analysis of environmental policy convergence in twenty-four countries
was published in 2008 with Cambridge University Press.1 It provided
answers to the questions of how much, in which direction and for what
reasons environmental policies in the developed world had converged
over the past thirty years. In this second volume we build on, but also
move beyond, the initial quantitative analysis. Through a set of in-depth
qualitative case studies, we shed light on the precise mechanisms through
which countries adapt their domestic policies to those already in place
in other countries. In particular, the book sheds light on the complex
ways in which words (transnational communication), rules (international
1

K. Holzinger, C. Knill and B. Arts (eds.) 2008. Environmental Policy Convergence in
Europe: The Impact of International Institutions and Trade. Cambridge University Press.

xii


Preface

xiii

harmonisation) and money (economic regulatory competition) interact
in the adoption and development of domestic environmental policies.
It does so by way of a highly systematic set of case studies, covering
the convergence of seven environmental policy issues in four countries:
France, Hungary, Mexico and the Netherlands.
We thank the European Commission for its financial support. We also
thank our universities and all other organisations that supported the
project directly or indirectly. We are indebted to all members of the
project team who made this research project a success. It was a great
pleasure working with you! Two anonymous reviewers at Cambridge
University Press provided thorough and very helpful criticism of an earlier
version of this book. Finally, we would like to thank Lena Keller for her
excellent assistance in editing the final book manuscript, Pat Harper for
her skilled and constructive copy-editing, as well as John Haslam, Carrie
Parkinson and Mary O’Hara at Cambridge University Press for guiding
us through the publication process.


Abbreviations

ADEME
AFSSE
APEC
BAT
BEVER
BOD
BREF
BRGM
BSB
CAAG
CALM Network
CARACAS
CBD
CCMS
CEC
CEE
CFDD
CGPC
CITES
CIW
CLARINET
CMEA
CNA
CNB
CO
xiv

Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maˆıtrise de
l’Energie
Agence Franc¸aise de S´ecurit´e Sanitaire
Environnementale
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
best available technology
Beleidsvernieuwing Bodemsanering
biological oxygen demand
best available technique reference document
Bureau de Recherches G´eologiques et Mini`eres
Bodem Sanering Bedrijventerreinen
Clean Air Action Group
EU-funded network established to develop a
Community Noise Research Strategy Plan
Concerted Action on Risk Assessment for
Contaminated Sites in Europe
Convention on Biological Diversity
Committee on the Challenges to Modern Society
Commission for Environmental Cooperation
Central and Eastern Europe
Commission Franc¸aise du D´eveloppement
Durable
Conseil G´en´eral des Ponts et Chauss´ees
Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species
Commissie Integraal Waterbeheer
Contaminated Land Rehabilitation Network for
Environmental Technologies
Council for Mutual Economic Assistance
National Water Commission (Mexico)
National Noise Council
carbon monoxide


List of abbreviations

Comecon
CPP
CRECEP
Cx Hy
DC
DDT
DEG
DG
DG TREN
DIREN
DRA
DRIRE
EBRD
EC
ECJ
ECMT
EEC
EIA
EMA
EMCC
END
EU
FIV
FJOKK
FNE
GATT
GDP
GMO
GNP
HAN
IAWPR
ICPE
I-INCE
IMTA
INE

xv

see CMEA
Comit´e de la Pr´evention et de la Pr´ecaution
ˆ
Centre de Recherche, d’Expertise et de Controle
des Eaux de Paris
hydrocarbons
DaimlerChrysler de M´exico SA de CV
dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane
Deutsche Investitions- und
Entwicklungsgesellschaft
Directorate-General
Directorate-General for Transport and Energy
Direction R´egionale de l’Environnement
Detailed Risk Assessment
Direction R´egionale de l’Industrie, de la
Recherche et de l’Environnement
European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development
European Community/European Commission
European Court of Justice
European Conference of Ministers of Transport
European Economic Community
environmental impact assessment
Environmental Management Act
European Monitoring Centre on Change
Environmental Noise Directive
European Union
Fixed Impact Value
Fodor Jozsef National Centre of Public Health
France Nature Environnement
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
gross domestic product
genetically modified organism
gross national product
Heidelberg Appeal Netherland Foundation
International Association of Water Pollution
Research
Installations Class´ees pour la Protection de
l’Environnement
International Institute of Noise Control
Engineering
Mexican Institute of Water Technology
National Institute of Ecology


xvi

List of abbreviations

INERIS
INRETS
IPPC
ISO
KTI
KVVM
LBOGM
LBOW
LGEEPA
MEDD
MEDEF
MNC
MOEW
NAAEC
NAFTA
NATO
NCA
NEPP
NGO
NMP 4
NOM
NOX
NRP
NTE
NWA
NW4
OECD
OKTVF
PCB
PEMEX
PP
PPP
PROFEPA

Institute National de l’Environnement Industriel
et des Risques
French National Institute for Transport and
Safety Research
Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control
International Organization for Standardization
Institute for Transport Services (Hungary)
¨
¨
Kornyezetv´
edelmi e´ s V´ızugyi
Miniszt´erium
(Ministry of Rural Development)
Ley de Bioseguridad y Organismos
Gen´eticamente Modificados
Landelijk Bestuurlijk Overleg Water
General Law on Ecological Equilibrium and
Protection of the Environment
´
Minist`ere de l’Ecologie
du D´eveloppement
Durable
Mouvement des Entreprises de France
multinational company
Ministry of Environment and Water
North American Agreement on Environmental
Cooperation
North American Free Trade Agreement
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Nature Conservation Act
National Environmental Policy Plan
non-governmental organisation
Dutch Environmental Policy Plan 4
Official Mexican Standard
nitrogen oxides
National Remediation Programme (Hungary)
Technical Standard (Mexico)
National Water Authority (Hungary)
Fourth Memorandum on Water Management
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development
National Inspectorate for Environment, Nature
and Water
polychlorinated biphenyl
´
Petroleos
Mexicanos
precautionary principle
polluter pays principle
Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection


List of abbreviations

RBLM
RIVM
RIZA
SD
SEDUE
SEMARNAP
SEMARNAT
S´etra
SME
SPA
SRA
SWPA
TBT
TCB
TI
TNO
UNAM
UNCED
UNCSD
UNDP
UNECE
UNEP
UVW
VEMW
VITUKI
VNG
VNO-NCW
VoMil
VRO
VROM
WCED
WFD
WHO

xvii

Risk Based Land Management
Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu
Institute for Inland Water Management and Waste
Water Treatment
sustainable development
Secretariat of Ecology and Urban Development
Secretariat of Environment, Natural Resources
and Fisheries
Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources
´
Service d’Etudes
Techniques des Routes et
Autoroutes
small and medium enterprises
Act on Soil Protection
Simplified Risk Assessment
Surface Water Pollution Control Act
Technical Barriers to Trade
Dutch Soil Protection Committee
Tecnolog´ıa Intercontinental SA de CV
Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific
Research
´
Universidad Nacional Autonoma
de M´exico
UN Conference on Environment and
Development
UN Commission on Sustainable Development
UN Development Programme
United Nations Economic Commission for
Europe
United Nations Environment Programme
Association of Regional Water Authorities
Vereniging voor Energie, Milieu en Water
Water Resources Research Centre
Association of Netherlands Municipalities
Confederation of Netherlands Industry and
Employers
Volksgezondheid en Milieuhygi¨ene
Ministry for Housing and Physical Planning
Ministerie van Volkshuisvesting, Ruimtelijke
Ordening en Milieubeheer
World Commission on Environment and
Development
Water Framework Directive
World Health Organization


xviii

WP
WTO
WWF
ZBC

List of abbreviations

Working Party
World Trade Organization
World Wide Fund for Nature
zones de bruit critique


1

Introduction: theoretical framework and
research design
Duncan Liefferink, Helge J¨orgens and Andrea Lenschow

1.1

Introduction

Are environmental policies in European countries growing more and
more similar? In this era of globalisation it seems likely, but if so, at
what level do national environmental policies converge? Are countries
generally reaching out to the most stringent and most effective models
available, or does increased international competition rather force them
to adopt less demanding levels of regulation?
And perhaps even more important: how do processes of environmental policy convergence come about? Some argue that cross-national policy convergence is mainly fuelled by the international trade interests of
individual states. Others emphasise formal policy coordination by, for
instance, European Union law or international environmental treaties
as the predominant convergence mechanism. Yet others argue that the
impact of legal harmonisation is overestimated and that much of the
mutual adjustment of domestic policies, institutions, and instruments
can be explained by increasing information flows and cross-national policy learning. Finally, one always has to keep in mind the possibility that
there are no international mechanisms at work at all. In this case policy convergence would simply be a matter of similar, but independent
responses to similar problems occurring in different countries.
As will be set out in considerable detail in Section 1.2, existing scholarly literature provides partial, tentative, sometimes even fairly powerful
clues to this major puzzle. It has been shown that convergence does take
place at a surprisingly high pace and in fact also at surprisingly high levels
of regulation. Generally speaking, environmental policies do not systematically fall victim to international economic competition as ‘race to the
bottom’ theories would predict. Instead, there is increasing evidence that
legal harmonisation as well as various types of transnational communication lead countries to mutually adjust their policy goals, policy instruments and even their levels of ambition. Moreover, this convergence is
not restricted to groups of countries with similar political systems or
1


2

Duncan Liefferink, Helge J¨orgens and Andrea Lenschow

similar policy styles, or which stand at similar stages of economic development. It can be observed on a European and in many instances even
global scale. Less is known, however, about the precise ways in which the
prevailing mechanisms work and interact in practice.
This book seeks to find answers to these questions by way of a highly
systematic set of cases studies, covering seven environmental policy issues
in four countries: France, Hungary, Mexico and the Netherlands. This
introductory chapter sets out the analytical framework applied in the case
studies. It specifies the research questions and the central theoretical concepts, explains the selection of the four countries and the seven cases, and
develops expectations as to which mechanisms of convergence may apply
under which circumstances. In Section 1.2 we fix the point of departure
for the present study by briefly reviewing the scholarly state-of-the-art in
the field of environmental policy convergence. Section 1.3 then defines
and discusses the basic terminology used in the book, notably the concept
of policy convergence and the main mechanisms behind it. In Section
1.4 we describe how our empirical case studies build upon the findings
of a large-scale quantitative study of environmental policy convergence
carried out earlier.1 The careful and systematic selection of both policy
issues and countries makes it possible to investigate in an unusually thorough and comprehensive fashion how the various mechanisms of policy
convergence work in practice, how they reinforce or hinder each other,
and how effective they are in making domestic policies more similar over
time. Finally in this chapter, Section 1.5 sketches the outline of the rest
of the book.

1.2

Environmental policy convergence: the state of
the art and further

Over the last decades, the study of processes of cross-national policy
convergence has become a major concern for political scientists. In a
globalising world, increased economic, political and cultural interdependence is assumed to make national policies grow more alike over time
(Drezner 2001). This convergence of policies and programmes has been
observed in virtually all areas of public policy making (for a comprehensive overview see Heichel, Pape and Sommerer 2005; see also the
¨
contributions in Holzinger, Jorgens
and Knill 2007). In this section we
1

Both the quantitative study and this book form part of the research project ‘Environmental governance in Europe: the impact of international institutions and trade on policy
convergence’ (ENVIPOLCON). For further details, see Section 1.4 and Chapter 2.


Introduction: theoretical framework and research design

3

will give an overview of the literature on policy convergence in the field
of environmental policy.
Since the late 1960s virtually all countries in the world have created
government institutions for the protection of the environment such as
environment ministries, national environmental agencies or environmen¨
tal advisory councils (Jorgens
1996; Meyer et al. 1997). Basic legislation
in the areas of air pollution control, nature and water protection as well as
waste management has equally been adopted in a large number of coun¨
tries (Busch and Jorgens
2005a). At the instrumental level, the more
recent shift in the prevailing policy pattern from a sectorally fragmented
and largely legally based regulatory approach to an integrated environmental policy characterised by the inclusion of softer and/or more flexible
instruments such as negotiated agreements, eco-labels, emissions trading
schemes, or ecological tax reforms is also proceeding on a global scale
¨
(De Clercq 2002; Jorgens
2003; De Bruijn and Norberg-Bohm 2005;
Daley 2007). Even concrete environmental protection standards such as
emission standards have strongly converged over time (Holzinger, Knill
and Arts 2008). Overall, a global convergence of governance patterns
in environmental policy has been observed (J¨anicke and Weidner 1997;
¨
Meyer et al. 1997; Weidner and J¨anicke 2002; Busch and Jorgens
2005b;
Holzinger, Knill and Sommerer 2008; Knill, Holzinger and Arts 2008).
Both comparative policy analysis and the study of international relations have contributed significantly to this growing literature on environmental policy convergence. Although the two subdisciplines differ
substantially in their theoretical expectations as well as in their methodological approach, their empirical findings have become increasingly
similar over time, supporting the identification of a strong and stable
convergence trend over the past four decades in the field of environmental
policy.
1.2.1

Comparative policy analysis

Scholars in the field of comparative policy analysis originally focused on
the national determinants of policy choice and policy change. Consequently, their theoretical point of departure was a general assumption
of cross-national diversity of environmental policies resulting from different national institutional frameworks, actor constellations, regulatory
styles and problem pressures (Lundqvist 1974; Kitschelt 1983; Weale
1992; van Waarden 1995). However, in their empirical analyses, they
quickly detected that in spite of widely differing national styles of regulation, advanced industrial states had been surprisingly similar in deciding
which risks required positive state action (agenda setting) and in their


4

Duncan Liefferink, Helge J¨orgens and Andrea Lenschow

successes or failures actually to reduce environmental pollution (policy
impacts) (Badaracco 1985; Brickman, Jasanoff and Ilgen 1985; Vogel
1986). While these studies did not directly pose the question of convergence or divergence of national environmental policies, their common
finding of ‘different styles, similar content’ (Knoepfel et al. 1987) was a
first and important step in that direction. In a summary of the findings of
this first set of comparative environmental policy analyses Knoepfel et al.
(1987: 183) concluded that ‘the hypothesis . . . concerning the long-term
convergence of policy outputs in environmental regulation must be tested
and questioned in a more comprehensive analysis’.
Building on these early findings, a second wave of studies began to
compare systematically the development of domestic capacities for environmental policy making throughout the group of Western industrialised
countries. These studies found not only that national environmental policies were determined only in part by domestic factors, but also that
processes of imitation and learning among geographically, culturally or
economically related countries had become important and independent
sources of any country’s capacity to address environmental problems
¨
(J¨anicke 1996; Jorgens
1996). As a consequence, Western industrialised
states responded in a surprisingly homogeneous way to the environmental challenge that had been placed on domestic and international policy agendas in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A systematic in-depth
comparison by J¨anicke and Weidner of case studies of thirty industrialised and developing countries confirmed these findings and extended
them beyond the narrow group of industrialised countries. It revealed a
global convergence of governance patterns in environmental policy that
covered not only domestic institutions but also sectoral environmental
laws, specific instruments, strategies, actor constellations and even the
strengthening of societal capacities (J¨anicke and Weidner 1997; Weidner
and J¨anicke 2002).
However, these findings did not go undisputed. In a study on the
development of environmental policies in Western Europe, Hanf and
Jansen (1998) confirmed the previous findings that countries tended to
respond to environmental phenomena ‘by legislation that was relatively
similar in formal terms’, but added that beneath the level of formal laws
and institutions, domestic environmental policies remained ‘quite different in terms of operational goals and instruments’ (Jansen, Osland
and Hanf 1998: 281). Like much of the Europeanisation literature, their
study found domestic actor constellations and institutional structures
to be important intervening factors which explain differences between
national environmental policies and institutions (see also Andersen and
¨
Liefferink 1997; Liefferink and Andersen 1998; Borzel
2002; Liefferink


Introduction: theoretical framework and research design

5

and Jordan 2005). While most Europeanisation studies agreed that the
powerful economic as well as political homogenising pressures within the
EU did not necessarily lead to uniform action at the level of member
states, but often produced a quite heterogeneous patchwork of institutions, instruments and policy styles (see, for example, H´eritier and Knill
2001), they disagreed on the concrete level of policy making where convergence and/or divergence could be expected as well as on the underlying
causal mechanisms. For example, while Jansen, Osland and Hanf (1998)
had expected diversity to be strongest with regard to operational goals
and targets, Jordan and Liefferink found that it was exactly at this level of
individual environmental standards and concrete instruments that convergence was most pronounced (Jordan and Liefferink 2004; Liefferink
and Jordan 2005). Regarding the mechanisms of environmental policy
change, Knill and Lenschow (2005a, 2005b), in a study of the effects
of EU policies on the organisational structure and behavioural patterns
of national administrations, found that ‘soft’ European steering modes
based on competition or communication had led to greater administrative convergence than ‘hard’ steering modes based on legal obligation.
Focusing on policies and instruments rather than administrative structures, Jordan and colleagues found more convergence in areas where the
EU has the authority to adopt binding supranational regulations than in
areas where it has little or no legislative competence (Jordan, Wurzel and
Zito 2003; Jordan and Liefferink 2004).
In parallel to these studies on Europeanisation and policy convergence,
a second strand of comparative studies began to investigate systematically
processes of transfer, diffusion and convergence of environmental policies beyond the relatively small group of EU member states. Rather than
relying on small to medium-sized samples of in-depth case studies – as
had been the case with the earlier generations of European and international comparisons – these studies began to trace the global patterns
of environmental policy change and convergence across large numbers
of countries, sometimes even on a worldwide scale (Tews, Busch and
¨
¨
¨
Jorgens
2003; Jorgens
2004; Busch and Jorgens
2005a, 2007a; Tews and
J¨anicke 2005). Looking at a wide range of policy items which included
environmental institutions, different types of environmental laws (from
constitutional articles to issue-specific ordinances), environmental policy instruments (regulatory, informational, voluntary or market-based)
and general principles and programmes, these studies provided strong
evidence of a global convergence in environmental policy making. Furthermore, they showed that a wide range of causal mechanisms, including economic coercion, legal harmonisation, and voluntary imitation and
learning, all contributed to this convergence and that the interaction of


6

Duncan Liefferink, Helge J¨orgens and Andrea Lenschow

different mechanisms – for example voluntary diffusion processes paving
the way for subsequent legal harmonisation – could significantly broaden
¨
the scope and increase the speed of convergence (Jorgens
2004; Busch
¨
and Jorgens
2005c, 2007b). In sum, comparative studies have shown that
national environmental policies are actually becoming more similar over
time, but that domestic idiosyncrasies constitute an important intervening factor which often limits the impact of transnational and international
convergence mechanisms.
1.2.2

International relations

While scholars in the field of comparative policy analysis focused predominantly on the national determinants of policy change and consequently
started out from a theoretical assumption of persisting cross-national differences, international relations scholars focused on international dynamics. Consequently, they were from the outset more open to theoretically
derived expectations of cross-national environmental policy convergence.
The most widely received of these hypotheses in the environmental field
was the prediction of a global race to the bottom regarding standards
for environmental, consumer or worker protection (Scharpf 1997a).
Although the direction of policy change that this hypothesis implied has
repeatedly been challenged on empirical grounds with numerous studies
showing that rather than racing to the bottom, domestic environmental
policies and standards tend to move steadily towards higher levels of environmental protection (Vogel 1995, 1997; Botcheva and Martin 2001;
Bernauer and Caduff 2004; Holzinger 2007; DeSombre 2008), the basic
prediction of a cross-national convergence of environmental standards
was supported by all of these studies.
The second big strand of research on environmental policy convergence in international relations, but also in international sociology, is
based on a constructivist epistemology. Analysing the global proliferation of characteristic elements of modern environmentalism – such as
environmental ministries, national parks, environmental NGOs or environmental impact assessments – John Meyer and his colleagues found a
worldwide convergence of environmental policies and institutions which
they interpreted as the domestic implementation of an emerging global
norm or, in other words, a norm-based ‘world environmental regime’
(Meyer et al. 1997; see also Frank, Hironaka and Schofer 2000; Hironaka
2002).
Most studies on international environmental politics, however, do
not deal explicitly with the convergence of national environmental policies. International agreements rather than domestic policies are their


Introduction: theoretical framework and research design

7

dependent variable (Harrison 2002). The most important strand of this
literature, empirical research on international environmental regimes,
is predominantly concerned with the development and implementation
of common solutions to transboundary environmental problems. Convergence, in this literature, is found mainly with regard to the value
states place on environmental protection and their subsequent willingness
and ability to reach and comply with multilateral agreements. Although
regime studies implicitly assume that domestic policies will converge as
multilateral agreements are being implemented, this assumption does
not constitute a core concern of the international relations literature and
is hardly ever tested empirically. The large body of literature on the effectiveness of international environmental regimes illustrates this. Focusing
on issues such as oil pollution at sea (Mitchell 1994a, 1994b), long-range
transboundary air pollution (Levy 1993), depletion of the ozone layer
(Litfin 1994), the transboundary movement of waste (O’Neill 2000) or
ocean dumping of radioactive waste (Ringius 2001), these studies are predominantly interested in the environmental effectiveness of multilateral
regimes. Although they often compare systematically how domestic policies change in response to international accords (Miles et al. 2002), their
focus is not on cross-national policy clustering or convergence, but rather
on the specific design features of international institutions that promote
or hinder domestic compliance (Haas, Keohane and Levy 1993).
Within this general regime literature, one particular research strand
pays greater attention to the diffusion and convergence of domestic environmental policies. Applying the concept of ‘epistemic communities’,
Haas (1992) and his colleagues stress the impact of transnationally disseminated scientific knowledge. They argue that ideas and causal beliefs
which have emerged and were promoted through knowledge-based networks of experts can shape state interests by ‘framing the issues for collective debate, proposing specific policies, and identifying salient points for
negotiation’. According to Haas, this ‘diffusion of new ideas and information can lead to new patterns of behaviour’ (Haas 1992: 2–3). Again,
the dependent variable is international cooperation rather than domestic
policy change and convergence. However, as the epistemic community
literature explicitly points out, domestic policies may converge as ‘the
innovations of epistemic communities are diffused nationally, transnationally, and internationally to become the basis of new or changed international practices and institutions and the emerging attributes of a new
world order’ (Adler and Haas 1992: 373). Other scholars have taken
up this point, arguing that epistemic communities and other transnational actor networks may in fact constitute an important mechanism
for the diffusion and convergence of domestic policies (Finnemore 2003:


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