Non Peer-reviewed Article
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Voluntary approaches in VOC emission reduction policy in Japan -architecture and participation-

In Paper submitted to Earth System Governance Tokyo Conference 2013-01

Voluntary approaches to industry-wide pollution prevention programs have been implemented by many industrialised countries, as a part of policy trend away from a ‘command and control’ policy approach.

The Japanese government established in 2004 a scheme based on a mix of regulatory and voluntary approaches to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) , calling it a ‘best mix’. It aimed to reduce VOC by 30% by 2010 from the 2000 level, by utilising both direct regulations (10%) and voluntary efforts (20%). As a result, it is estimated that the VOC emissions were reduced larger than the target. A total of 43 industrial associations submitted voluntary action plans and the number of the companies participating in the plans reached 9,365.

To date, there are few studies on the policy assessment of the Japanese VOC emission reduction policy. This paper focuses on the participation by the business sector (‘Agency’) in the voluntary action plans and addresses the question what factors facilitated their participation in the voluntary approach under the VOC reduction scheme (‘Architecture’). It tests the existing hypotheses for motivations behind firms’ participation in voluntary environmental programs including regulatory threat, market forces and informal mechanisms, by applying them to two sectors with the highest participation according to the capture rates of the sectors’ emissions through voluntary action plans. Findings not only show some consistent results with the hypotheses but also reveal not only commonalities but also differences in the motivations for participating in voluntary action plans between the sectors.