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Technological Change and Environmental Policy: The Diffusion of Environmental Technology

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As concern for environmental protection is growing within all sectors of society, industrial firms are being forced to become more accountable for their actions. Government policies, in the form of environmental standards, have been reduce the level of toxic pollutants begin discharged by firms. In order to comply with these standards, firms must either change the nature of their production processes or employ technologies that reduce the level of effluent being discharged. This paper investigates the role of environmental policy in driving firms to adopt pollution control technologies. The policy addressed is the Province of Ontario's Municipal Industrial Strategy for Abatement (MISA) which seeks to compel firms to reduce discharges of industrial effluent through the application of the “Best Available Technology Economically Achievable.” The impact of this policy instrument on the adoption of pollution control technology in the Ontario organic chemical industry is examined. The analysis is based on interviews with firms in the chemical industry which reveal that environmental policy has played a central role in inducing firms to adopt pollution control technologies. The paper draws on literature about technology diffusion, especially the relationship between suppliers and users of technology, and examines the process through which environmental technology is transferred to regulated firms. The relationship between the suppliers and users of technology is strong, especially between the large multinational users and smaller independent domestic technology suppliers.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Toronto

Publication date: December 1, 1997

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