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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Japanese voluntary environmental agreements : political-economic stability as contributor to effectiveness Trehearne, Colin


Empirical and theoretical literature on voluntary environmental agreements (VEAs) has identified numerous conditions for effectiveness. Such works are, however, primarily based on European and North American studies. Yet the Japanese experience with VEAs poses interesting challenges and opportunities for researchers. Overall, Japan's utilization of VEAs has been greater in breadth and depth than virtually any other state. Yet both this statement and understandings of environmental voluntarism depend upon careful attention to definitions. In particular, attention to the role of coercion is important to understandings of voluntarism. Ultimately, this thesis argues that the appropriate test of voluntarism is legal - any agreement not required in content or creation by law is therefore voluntary. Following this, the thesis utilizes the Japanese experience in dealing with sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide to identify major features of the two most common types of VEAs in Japan, negotiated agreements and unilateral commitments. Japan's experience with environmental voluntarism is generally regarded as highly successful despite the absence of numerous conditions specified in the existing literature for VEA effectiveness. This challenges the completeness of extant theory and contributes a negative finding for the development of future research. This thesis argues that one overlooked variable is the stability of the state's political economy. As such, the following chapter specifies the role of stability as identified by scholars of VEAs and political economy. The examination indicates that political economic stability, as a contributor to VEA effectiveness, has thus far been underappreciated by scholars of environmental voluntarism. Particular attention is paid to the role of stability in encouraging investment and making credible commitments. The following chapter addresses the stability of Japan's political economy to identify possible sources, characteristics and effects. The results and observations provided pertain primarily to large firms but share numerous commonalities with most firms in Japan. Particular emphasis is placed on four types of stability: political, policy, individual, and firm. The thesis concludes by arguing that current instability-generating trends in Japan's political economy are likely to reduce VEA effectiveness and focuses primarily on Keidanren's Voluntary Action Plan for carbon dioxide emissions reduction.

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