Climate Change and Democracy
Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. Its devastating consequences already affect billions of people around the world. Natural disasters – draughts and floods, heatwaves and wildfires– are becoming more frequent, more severe, and more widespread. They impact resource availability and economic safety, exacerbate inequality and poverty, and can lead to social unrest, political instability, conflict, and migration. All these developments put enormous pressure on our democratic societies and decision-making processes.
While the science is clear and we know the solutions, the barriers to addressing climate change are primarily political: Our increasingly polarized societies fail to build the necessary consensus, causing our policy responses to remain insufficient, in both scale and speed. The situation requires nothing less than fundamental economic, social, and political transformations and challenges our societies to develop new strategies to address climate change.
Capitalizing on International IDEA’s longstanding expertise, we want to bridge the gaps between scientists, citizens, and policymakers, build knowledge, and offer capacity-development and policy advice to inspire and support the development of strategies that:
- Minimize democracies’ structural weaknesses (such as short-termism, cumbersome procedures, or the influence of vested interests),
- Leverage their inherent assets (such as the free circulation of information, participation, or accountability), and
- Innovate our democratic processes (e.g., through long-term framework legislation, deliberative mini publics, or lowering the voting age).
At a time where democracy is under threat in many parts of the world, governments need to formulate citizen-owned policy responses to climate change for democracy to remain a legitimate and credible political system for young people and future generations. Only then will we be able to turn mass movements around climate change that question and contest our existing democratic mechanisms and routines into an opportunity to revitalize democracy.