In recent years most industrialised countries have adopted 'new' environmental policy instruments (NEPIs) voluntary agreements, environmental taxes, tradable permits and eco-labels. This collection examines the current pattern of use over time (that is, 1970-2000) in eight industrialised countries. This introduction defines a NEPI and introduces the two main objectives of the whole collection, which are to: (1) identify where and when NEPIs are being used, and reflect upon the main drivers of (and barriers to) their continuing uptake, especially in Europe; and (2) assess how 'new' they actually are in comparison to the traditional style, structures and content of national environmental policy. The aim here is to assess how far NEPIs are actually replacing or simply supplementing 'old' instruments, namely regulation. By offering a fresh perspective on the comparative politics of NEPIs, this collection provides an important empirical test of whether government is giving way to a system of environmental governance, in which the level of central steering by the state is much reduced.