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The project aims to develop a research network on voluntary approaches in environmental policy. It wants to foster communication between researchers and policy-makers in order to improve the quality of research and decision-making.

The use of voluntary approaches (VAs) as environmental policy tools complementing or at times replacing traditional regulation or fiscal instruments in EU Member States has increased since the late 1980s. The European Commission has already exhibited her interest in encouraging a coordinated use of these instruments within the sphere of environmental policy in their communication to the European Parliament on environmental agreements in 1996.

The main contents of these instruments are guidelines for the use of such agreements aimed at increasing their credibility among stakeholders and their effectiveness. However, unlike environmental taxes and tradable permits, forum of discussion between researchers, policy-makers and industrialists, academic networks grouping specialists from different areas and handbooks surveying the state-of-the-art are lacking in the field of VAs.

The objectives of CAVA are thus to achieve synergy amongst researchers in order to exchange results on finalised and on-going work, develop new research initiatives and prepare ‘state of the art’ reviews. In addition, it aims to achieve economies of scale in conducting research on VAs, to bring the latest developments in the application of VAs to the attention of researchers and to bring the latest research results to the policy process. Furthermore, it seeks to promote further research on voluntary approaches in the field of the environment and to attract new research teams on the topic as well as to improve the quality of decision-making as it relates to the use of VAs in EU environmental policy.

The programme is structured around five themes: 1) the worldwide use of Vas’ state-of-the-art and national patterns; 2) the integration of VAs in existing legal systems; 3) the institutional aspects; 4) the efficiency of Vas and; 5) VAs and competition, each of which is headed by one member of the Network. Each of these members of the CAVA network surveys the literature related to a specific field of knowledge with regard to these instruments. The work of the Network also consists of the organising of workshops and conferences involving contributions and participation from researchers, policy-makers and industrialists. A final conference foresees the presentation of the main results of the Network in synthetic form and addresses high level policy-makers and industrialists. A Policy-Handbook on VAs is to be published at the end of the project.

The role of FEEM
FEEM’s research contributes to theme (5), particularly through a comprehensive literature survey, on the one hand, focuses on identifying the market environment most favourable to the adoption of voluntary approaches in terms of concentration and, on the other, the assessment of the effects of voluntary approaches on market structure and industry concentration. FEEM also has the task of organising and publishing a conference on the theme of VAs and competition in May 2000.