Comparative policy analysis revealed the phenomenon that certain national environmental
policy initiatives have been adopted by a variety of countries. This empirical finding inspired
the research interest: What are the reasons for this observable spreading? Is it coincidence,
is it lesson-drawing, competition, emulation or is it the result of decreasing nation state’s discretion
due to mandatory compliance requirements of international law?
The concept of policy diffusion has been found quite suitable to analyse the spreading of different
environmental policy innovations. The analysis of diffusion processes is a challenging
endeavour as it has to consider a complex interplay of three factors: International and transnational
factors which horizontally and vertically interlink jurisdictions and enable the transfer
of policy content; national factors which filter experiences from abroad and determine national
responsiveness to external stimuli; and the characteristics of the policy innovation
which may indicate its “diffusablity”.
This research note is a synthesis of findings of the project on “The Diffusion of Environmental
Innovations as an Aspect of Globalisation” financed by the Volkswagen Foundation. It
confronts central assumptions of diffusion research with the findings of various project researchers.
The empirical core of the project consists of a set of data concerning the adoption
of 21 environmental policy innovations in 48 countries over a time period of 50 years.
In a first step the paper analyses whether across all of the 21 environmental innovations typical
pattern of spread can be identified in order to detect those channels of diffusion which
seemingly further diffusion processes. Following up this discussion the paper debates international
factors which are assumed to have an crucial impact on the pattern of diffusion.
Within this section interrelations with other types of global or regional governance are discussed.
This comprises both special features of the EU context as well as the impact of global
norms. After giving a short overview concerning the micro-foundations of the diffusion effects
of international stimuli the paper proceeds to discuss the restrictions in the diffusion
process, which heavily depend on innovation characteristics and national capacities to innovate.
The paper concludes with raising new research questions in order to inspire the scientific
debate on globalisation and policy convergence.
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