Skip to main content Accessibility help

Environmental Policy Convergence: The Impact of International Harmonization, Transnational Communication, and Regulatory Competition

  • Katharina Holzinger (a1), Christoph Knill (a2) and Thomas Sommerer (a3)


In recent years, there is growing interest in the study of cross-national policy convergence. Yet we still have a limited understanding of the phenomenon: Do we observe convergence of policies at all? Under which conditions can we expect that domestic policies converge or rather develop further apart? In this article, we address this research deficit. From a theoretical perspective, we concentrate on the explanatory power of three factors, namely international harmonization, transnational communication, and regulatory competition. In empirical terms, we analyze if and to what extent we can observe convergence of environmental policies across twenty-four industrialized countries between 1970 and 2000. We find an impressive degree of environmental policy convergence between the countries under investigation. This development is mainly caused by international harmonization and, to a considerable degree, also by transnational communication, whereas regulatory competition does not seem to play a role.



Hide All
Acharya, Amitav. 2004. How Ideas Spread: Whose Norms Matter? Norm Localization and Institutional Change in Asian Regionalism. International Organization 58 (2):239–75.
Barrios, Salvador, Görg, Holger, and Strobl, Eric A.. 2003. Multinational Enterprises and New Trade Theory: Evidence for the Convergence Hypothesis. Open Economies Review 14 (4):397418.
Beck, Nathaniel, and Katz, Jonathan N.. 1995. What to Do (and Not to Do) with Time-Series-Cross-Section Data. American Political Science Review 89 (3):634–47.
Bennett, Colin. 1991. What Is Policy Convergence and What Causes It? British Journal of Political Science 21 (2):215–33.
Bremer, Stuart A. 1992. Dangerous Dyads: Conditions Affecting the Likelihood of Interstate War, 1816–1965. Journal of Conflict Resolution 36 (2):309–41.
Brinks, Daniel, and Coppedge, Michael. 2006. Diffusion Is No Illusion: Neighbor Emulation in the Third Wave of Democracy. Comparative Political Studies 39 (4):463–89.
Chwieroth, Jeffrey. 2007. Neoliberal Economists and Capital Account Liberalization in Emerging Markets. International Organization 61 (2):443–63.
Crescenzi, Mark J. C. 2007. Reputation and Interstate Conflict. American Journal of Political Science 51 (2):382–96.
DiMaggio, Paul J., and Powell, Walter W.. 1991. The Iron Cage Revisited. Institutionalized Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields. In The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis, edited by Powell, Walter W. and DiMaggio, Paul J., 6382. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Elkins, Zachary, Guzman, Andrew T., and Simmons, Beth A.. 2006. Competing for Capital: The Diffusion of Bilateral Investment Treaties, 1960–2000. International Organization 60 (4):811–46.
Green, Donald P., Kim, Soo Yeon, and Yoon, David H.. 2001. Dirty Pool. International Organization 55 (2):441–68.
Greene, William H. 2000. Econometric Analysis. 4thed.Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
Haas, Peter M. 1992. Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination. International Organization 46 (1):136.
Heichel, Stephan, Pape, Jessica, and Sommerer, Thomas. 2005. Is There Convergence in Convergence Research? An Overview of Empirical Studies on Policy Convergence. Journal of European Public Policy 12 (5):817–40.
Hoberg, Georg. 2001. Globalization and Policy Convergence: Symposium Overview. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice 3 (2):127–32.
Holzinger, Katharina. 1995. A Surprising Success in EC Environmental Policy: The Small Car Exhaust Emission Directive of 1989. In Successful Environmental Policy, edited by Jänicke, Martin and Weidner, Helmut, 187202. Berlin: Edition Sigma.
Holzinger, Katharina. 2003. Common Goods, Matrix Games, and Institutional Solutions. European Journal of International Relations 9:173212.
Holzinger, Katharina. 2006. Methodological Pitfalls of Convergence Analysis. European Union Politics 7 (2):271–87.
Holzinger, Katharina, and Knill, Christoph. 2005. Causes and Conditions of Cross-national Policy Convergence. Journal of European Public Policy 12:775–96.
International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Fourth Assessment Report. Climate Change 2007. Synthesis Report. Available at ⟨⟩. Accessed 27 June 2008.
Kahler, Miles, and Lake, David A.. 2003. Governance in a Global Economy: Political Authority in Transition. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Kinsella, David, and Russett, Bruce. 2002. Conflict Emergence and Escalation in Interactive International Dyads. Journal of Politics 64 (4):1045–68.
Knill, Christoph. 2001. The Europeanisation of National Administrations: Patterns of Institutional Change and Persistence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Knill, Christoph. 2005. Introduction: Cross-national Policy Convergence: Concepts, Approaches and Explanatory Factors. Journal of European Public Policy 12 (5):764–74.
Knill, Christoph, and Liefferink, Duncan. 2007. Environmental Politics in the European Union: Policy-Making, Implementation and Patterns of Multi-Level Governance. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press.
Knill, Christoph, Heichel, Stephan, and Tosun, Jale. 2008. Balancing Competition and Conditionality: Environmental Policy-Making in Low-Regulating Countries. Journal of European Public Policy 15: forthcoming.
Lee, Chang Kil, and Strang, David. 2006. The International Diffusion of Public-Sector Downsizing: Network Emulation and Theory-Driven Learning. International Organization 60 (4):883909.
Levi-Faur, David. 2005. The Political Economy of Legal Globalization: Juridification, Adversarial Legalism, and Responsive Regulation. A Comment. International Organization 59 (2):451–62.
Martin, Lisa L., and Simmons, Beth A.. 1998. Theories and Empirical Studies of International Institutions. International Organization 52 (4):729–57.
Rose, Richard. 1991. What Is Lesson-Drawing? Journal of Public Policy 11 (3):330.
Simmons, Beth A., and Elkins, Zachary. 2004. The Globalization of Liberalization: Policy Diffusion in the International Political Economy. American Political Science Review 98 (1):171–89.
Simmons, Beth A., Dobbin, Frank, and Garrett, Geoffrey. 2006. Introduction: The International Diffusion of Liberalism. International Organization 60 (4):781810.
Stern, David I., and Common, Michael S.. 2001. Is There an Environmental Kuznets Curve for Sulfur? Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 41 (2):162–78.
Strang, David, and Meyer, John W.. 1993. Institutional Conditions for Diffusion. Theory and Society 22 (4):487511.
Swank, Duane. 2006. Tax Policy in an Era of Internationalization: Explaining the Spread of Neoliberalism. International Organization 60 (4):847–82.
Vogel, David. 1995. Trading Up: Consumer and Environmental Regulation in the Global Economy. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Volden, Craig. 2006. States as Policy Laboratories: Emulating Success in the Children's Health Insurance Program. American Journal of Political Science 50 (2):294312.
Wilson, Sven E., and Butler, Daniel M.. 2007. A Lot More to Do: The Sensitivity of Time-Series Cross-Section Analyses to Simple Alternative Specifications. Political Analysis 15 (2):101–23.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed