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Policy Sciences

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 335–385 | Cite as

Voluntary environmental agreements in developing countries: the Colombian experience

  • Allen BlackmanEmail author
  • Eduardo Uribe
  • Bart van Hoof
  • Thomas P. Lyon
Article

Abstract

Voluntary agreements (VAs) negotiated between environmental regulators and polluters are increasingly popular in developing countries. According to proponents, they can sidestep weak institutions and other pervasive barriers to conventional mandatory regulation in such countries. Yet little is known about the drivers of their use and their effectiveness in poor countries. The considerable literature on voluntary initiatives in industrialized countries, where both VAs and socioeconomic conditions differ, may not apply. Using a conceptual framework drawn from the economics literature, we examine four prominent VAs in Colombia, a global leader in the use of this policy. We find that the main motive for using VAs has been to build capacity needed for broader environmental regulatory reform and that partly as a result, VAs’ additional effect on environmental performance has been limited. These findings contrast with those from industrialized country studies, which typically conclude VAs are used as a low-cost substitute for impending mandatory regulation and have few benefits because of weak regulatory pressure. Our findings suggest that in developing countries, VAs may be best suited to capacity building, not environmental management per se.

Keywords

Voluntary environmental agreement Pollution Colombia 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Funding for this study was provided by the Inter-American Development Bank; the Alcoa Foundation; the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), through the Environment for Development Initiative; and the Swedish Research Council Formas, through the program Human Cooperation to Manage Natural Resources. We are grateful to Leonardo Corral and our Colombian interviewees for sharing insights and data and providing logistical support, and to the editor and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions. Finally, thanks to Sally Atwater and Joyce Bond for editorial assistance.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allen Blackman
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Eduardo Uribe
    • 3
  • Bart van Hoof
    • 4
  • Thomas P. Lyon
    • 5
  1. 1.Resources for the FutureWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Environment for Development Center for Central AmericaTurrialbaCosta Rica
  3. 3.Optim ConsultBogotáColombia
  4. 4.Faculty of AdministrationUniversidad de los AndesBogotáColombia
  5. 5.Stephan Ross School of BusinessUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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