IES Research Projects

Policy Recycling?
The External Effects of European Union Environmental Policy
on the United States

Can the European Union influence environmental policy beyond its borders? This dissertation investigates whether, how and with what result EU environmental policy exerts external effects on the US in the absence of mutually negotiated transatlantic treaties or explicitly coercive measures imposed by the EU on the US. The analysis demonstrates that through the introduction of ambitious and pioneering policy, the EU can contribute to policy-making in non-EU jurisdictions. European Union environmental policy can affect policies, politics and policy problems in jurisdictions outside the EU.

The investigation focuses on EU legislation that aims to minimise the environmental and health impact of waste electronics (e-waste). It presents an in-depth study of EU external effects on the United State at the federal and state level. The analysis shows that the EU affected US policies, politics and policy problems through three different mechanisms – learning, emulation and adjustment. The resulting US e-waste policy output varies, can, in addition to the mechanisms, be explained by three groups of factors specific to each individual jurisdiction. These factor groups are the politics, the institutions and the policy problem.

The empirical analysis strongly confirms that EU environmental policy can have external effects on policy beyond EU borders without negotiating or coercing extra-EU policy change. External effects can be found at multiple levels of governance and include not only laws but also measures such as industrial standards and non-legislative programmes. While external effects through learning, emulation and adjustment are less steerable and influenceable by the EU than bilateral negotiation or coercive measures, they can nevertheless be considered a distinct and important mode of EU external governance. In an international environment in which binding agreements are difficult to achieve leadership through pioneering policy can be an important tool.

Download the final thesis

Promoter: Sebastian Oberthür

Researcher: Katja Biedenkopf