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Concerted Action on voluntary approaches


Rationale for a concerted action on voluntary approaches The fifth European Programme of Action adopted in 1992 encourages a new approach to environmental policy. Besides market-based instruments, the promotion of voluntary initiatives and agreements is considered as a key component of this new approach. Four years later the Commission reiterates this statement with the adoption of a Communication (Com 96/561), setting a framework for the use and devising of environmental accords with polluting industries.
These are the first results of an attempt in catching up with the reality of environmental policy in the EU at the national level, where more than 310 Voluntary Approaches have been inventoried. Theoretical and empirical research on Voluntary Approaches has been growing in the same time. For instance the Commission has initiated several studies and more than 60 academic papers have been published in this area. However, research is still very atomicised. Also, interactions between researchers and policy users are lacking. This is unlike other research areas such as environmental taxation, where networks have been deployed since quite a time now.

Much research work on Voluntary Approaches in environmental policy has been done and is currently under way in the fields of economics and legal sciences. But in the absence of systematic interaction between the main researchers, there is a considerable risk that the whole will be less than the sum of the parts. By facilitating interaction, this proposal is designed to ensure that: R&D in this area is of the highest quality, has a cohesive focus and is made available to potential users.

Members and methodology
This concerted action involves bringing together the main teams of voluntary approaches research expertise in Europe. These are: AKF, Copenhagen (Anders Larsen), CERNA, Paris (François Lévêque, Coordinator), Fundazione Eni Enrico Mattei, Venice (Carlo Carraro), Oeko-Institut, Darmstadt (Gerhard Roller), University of Gent (Mark de Clercq), University College Dublin (Frank J. Convery).

The work programme will be organised in six sub-themes: the nature of VA's, the efficiency of VAs, VAs and competition, Institutional aspects of VAs, Legal aspects and implications of VAs, VAs at the international stage.
Each of the teams will organise an academic workshop (in order to share specialist issues in data selection, methodologies, theoretical underpinnings and so on) and a seminar for specialist practitioners (as an interface with policy users) on one of the sub-themes. This will lead to the organising of an international conference in Brussels for high level practitioners and the publishing of a handbook, both including the key theoretical and practical results on voluntary approaches. Furthermore, publications and a newsletter will be used in order to ensure that R&D is quickly transmitted to all.

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