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Pathways to Sustainability: Policy Instruments and Technological Change

It is today well documented that there is a considerable, and in some respects widening, gap between policy targets or intentions and actual results in the environmental domain. There are at least three possible explanations for this 'puzzle'. Firstly, what is often denoted as 'policy failure', meaning that policy- and decision-makers fail to adopt (appropriate) policy instruments. Secondly, 'implementation failure', meaning that the instruments are not being implemented forcefully. Thirdly, a mismatch between the instrument implemented and the context in which it is applied. In this project, we are mainly concerned with two the latter explanations. Hence, the objective of the current project is to examine the effectiveness of different policy instruments by way of comparative empirical research. More specifically, the project aims to assess the impact of different policy instruments on technological and industrial change. For this purpose, the project employs an analytical framework that combines theories from the areas of public policy and instrument choice and technological change. Moreover, the project proposes five empirical cases studies that reflect the role of (i) different types of policy instruments, (ii) different types of problem to be solved, and (iii) different types of political and industrial context. The five case studies are:
(1) Forest management in Norway and Sweden.
(2) Climate policy in the Dutch and Norwegian oil and gas production sectors.
(3) Waste management (electronics, plastic) in Norway.
(4) Air pollution from the oil and gas sectors in Norway and the UK.
(5) Renewable energy in the form of wind power in Norway and Denmark.

The project is part of the Research Council of Norway's RAMBU programme.

Project leader: Jon Birger Skjærseth

Project period: 2002-2004


Skjærseth, Jon Birger and Atle Christer Christiansen, 'Environmental Policy Instruments and Technological Change in the Energy Sector: Findings from Comparative Empirical Research'. Energy & Environment, Vol 17 No 2, 2006, pp. 223-241.

Skjærseth, Jon Birger, 'Governing Technological Change by Voluntary Agreements: Climate Policy and Dutch Petroleum Production'.Climate Policy, Vol 5, No 4, 2005, pp. 419-432.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Explaining Different Approaches to Voluntary Standards: A Study of Forest Certification Choices in Norway and Sweden', Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning, Vol 7, No 1, 2005, pp. 43-59.

Skjærseth, Jon Birger and Atle Christer Christiansen, 'Climate Change Policies in Norway and the Netherlands: Different Instruments, Similar Outcome'. Energy & Environment, Vol 16, No 1, 2005, pp. 1-25.

Wettestad, Jørgen, 'Offshore Air Pollution and Technological Fixes: A Norway-UK Comparison'. Energy and Environment, Vol 15, No 5, 2004, pp. 779-805.
 Related focal points of research:

   Global environmental governance and law
   European energy and environment politics
   Biodiversity and genetic resources

Project funding:

   The Research Council of Norway

 External cooperation partners:

   The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

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