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Democracies and the fight against climate change: is it a good fit?

Climate change has brought its consequences not only on the natural environment of the planet but also on the social and political environment of our world. The challenge of Climate Change does not involve only scientific tools and knowledge but also political and civil action.

One of the many debates that Climate Change has triggered concerns about which form of government is best fit to face the future challenges: democracies or autarchies? This is a question that has been around for a long time. The role of the type of government is fundamental in this issue because both actors in the play influence each other, as much as politics and governments influence climate policies, climate policies have an impact on politics and governments too, running in circles. Of course, whoever holds the capacity power, being a representation of the citizens or an autarkic leadership, can determine what policies to apply, but the political power has no control over the effects that climate change will have on our planet and lives, and both types of government will have to deal with it.

It might be easy to imagine autarchic regimes being facilitated in quickly applying extreme decisions, to fight the climate danger since their decision-making procedures are usually time-wise more efficient than the democratic ones, and the leaders have a political room for maneuver. This situation, apparently in favor of less-democratic models, is not so easy in reality. Non-democracies, even if they don’t put the citizens as the holders of the political power, still have to consider people’s support and basic needs. Also, the political room for maneuver is worth nothing without another substantial element: ambitions. If a government does not aspire to make effective policies to fight against climate change, therefore its efficiency in this cause is still negative.

Considering only this information, it might be easy to conclude that democracies are the best option to operate against climate change, but the nuances of approaches even among democracies are many. New trends and changes happen in the democratic approach occasionally. It isn’t easy even to determine what is exactly the best and most “democratic” approach to climate change. Many tools and options are available in democracies. Expert agencies for scientific point of view on the matter; legally binding climate commitments; citizens assemblies to involve the people in the process, since protests and movements are a reality of democratic approach to climate change politics. 


There have been tendencies of democracies acting with more “autarchic” or at least less democratic approaches to climate change. One example can be the so-called “eco-authoritarianism”. Environmentalists supporting this movement believe that democracies should be put on hold when addressing climate change issues so that the governments would be free to act upon them. Another approach that has emerged in favor of a more technocratic approach to the matter of climate change is the idea of “planetary stewardship”. It is an international call for shaping the planet's future, with polycentric governance. This doesn’t necessarily include a democratic feature since the planet's needs are considered more important than the ones of the people. From this point of view, it seems democracies might be taking back climate-related policies from the collective democratic debate. 

Image credits: The Week

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