A Comparative Analysis of New Environmental Policy Instruments
Chapter 5 focuses on voluntary agreements (VAs), which constitute one of two sub-types of suasive policy instruments; Chapter 4 assessed the other sub-type, namely, informational instruments (specifically, EMSs and eco-label schemes). The latter give societal actors the choice to join a particular scheme. VAs involve a process of engendering voluntary commitments from societal actors (namely, primarily companies) which can ‘opt out’ of such agreements. The conventional governance perspective (see Chapters 1 and 2) expects a strong uptake of self-regulatory policy instruments (such as VAs) which rely on non-hierarchical self- steering mechanisms. As this chapter reveals, however, some VAs are adopted in ‘the shadow of hierarchy’ (Scharpf, 1994); this presupposes a certain degree of coerciveness that governmental actors exert on societal actors. The next section of Chapter 5 explores definitional issues associated with VAs; it highlights the significance of competing perspectives and their meaning for understanding the governing effect of this particular policy instrument. Chapter 5 then tracks the chronology of VA adoption in our four case countries and the EU, highlighting the ‘pioneers’ and ‘followers’. We start with Germany and the Netherlands, which are the pioneering countries concerning VAs. Then we discuss the followers: Austria, the UK and EU. We also assess whether policy transfer has occurred across the five selected jurisdictions (for example, due to external pressures such as international competition) or whether the uptake of VAs reflects primarily specific domestic contextual dynamics (for example, domestic policy learning). Germany and the Netherlands, which have adopted by far the largest number of environmental VAs within the EU,
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