Emission reduction (by containment, fuel substitution or technology change in the production and use of energy) is at the core of acid rain policy. Britain and Germany responded with very different strategies and timetables of implementation. Germany has completed its abatement programme for stationary sources, and its effort for the transport sector, while less satisfactory, is well advanced. Britain has hardly began to implement its reluctant policy response, which was largely forced by external pressures. These differences reflect complex cultural, institutional and geographic differences. Three factors are isolated as being of explanatory power and general significance: the role allocated to scientific advice in environmental policy, energy policy objectives and technological aspirations. The potential of environmental policy for realising broader national goals is more readily recognised through open and competitive policy-making processes. In Britain, ideology and the nature of the political process encouraged short-sight- edness.