New Environmental Policy Instruments (NEPIs) are becoming increasingly attractive. From a global perspective, there has been a rapid diffusion of these market‐based, voluntary or informational instruments. This article examines the spread of four different NEPIs – eco‐labels, energy or carbon taxes, national environmental policy plans or strategies for sustainable development, and free‐access‐of‐information (FAI) provisions. The adoption of NEPIs by national policy makers is not simply a reaction to newly emerging environmental problems or to real or perceived deficits of traditional command and control regulation, rather the use of NEPIs can also be ascribed to the inner dynamics of international processes of policy transfer or policy diffusion. These processes make it increasingly difficult for national policy makers to ignore new approaches in environmental policy that have already been put into practice in ‘forerunner’ countries.