The Diffusion of Environmental Policy Innovations



Dr. Kristine Kern

Financial support:



Sep 01, 1999 — Jun 23, 2002

Contact Person:

Dr. Helge Jörgens


The investigation showed that certain institutional or instrumental innovations of individual countries systematically spread as national state of action since the establishment of environmental policies, in other words were adopted by other countries. These empirical findings raised the question as to the reasons for this observable phenomenon which should be studied in the framework of the research project: Is it a coincidence, what is behind this political learning processes, the competition between states in the international system to such processes of harmonization of regulation patterns or is this the result of convergence of national implementation of internationally binding commitments?

Propagation profiles of environmental innovations were investigated in this project. The diffusion concept has been used as a means for analyzing such global dispersal processes of policy innovations and developed further. The question of the factors that influence such propagation processes of political innovations was mainly investigated from a macro perspective. The systematic policy-monitoring of the spread of environmental policy of 21 innovations (seven of them involving global diffusions) provides the empirical basis for this.

In depth, three case studies on the spreading of Energie/CO2-regulation, launched programs on renewable energy and eco-symbols. From the propagation of environmental innovations conclusions were drawn on the primary factors that influenced this process. This proved to be a major challenge, as diffusion processes left only to be understood against the background of the complex interplay of three factors: International and transnational factors which merge horizontally and vertically with each other and enable the transfer of policy content, national factors that filter outside influences and national responsiveness to international stimuli determine as well the characteristics of the political innovation itself which affects their diffusion ability.

At the same time, the project is a major contribution for the description of the development of global environmental policy. This contribution consists in the fact that this development is understood not only as a process of formation of international institutions and regimes. In fact, learning processes of countries and their international conditions are in the foreground.