The world today faces unprecedented threats of climate change and environmental degradation. The future of our species is at stake, in addition to all the chaos caused by war conflicts. The poorest and most marginalized are often the most affected by these changes, while political systems around the world often fail to take decisive steps to address these challenges. However, there is a compelling argument to suggest that democracy can be a key force to save our environment and planet.

Democratization and decarbonization of the economy are key elements in the fight against climate change. Democratization refers to the process in which political decisions are made with the participation of citizens, rather than being reserved only for elites.

This is particularly important because climate change is a global problem that requires joint action and broad population support. In a democratic environment, citizens have the opportunity to actively participate in decision-making processes, providing legitimacy and support for the measures that must be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The need for new types of economy

Only a sustainable and “green” economy is no longer enough, while the conventional economy is a burden on the planet and contributes to degradation: more and more people are talking about the restorative and regenerative economy in the world.

According to Oxford’s Smiths School of Enterprise and the Environment, the regenerative economy is “moving away from extractive business models and unlocking the potential for positive contributions to nature and society. (…) This includes helping to reduce carbon dioxide and contributing to a positive long-term climate change trajectory while adding more biodiversity for the future and ensuring justice, equity and inclusion within and between societies and economic markets.”

Restorative economics is focused on the treatment and restoration of vulnerable communities that have been marginalized and oppressed by the polluting and extractive economy, the restoration of ecosystems and investment in strategies that create shared prosperity and self-determination for a just transition to the next economy, the regenerative type economy mentioned earlier.

In all of this, we must not forget that, in addition to decarbonization, there is something else that could help to overcome climate change – investing in research that can create commercially viable ways to convert emitted carbon dioxide back into fuel and carbon capture technologies for removing carbon dioxide.

For all this, in addition to investment, scientific literacy of decision-makers and democratic organization at a very high level is also required. Unfortunately, we don’t have that today.

Democracy, environment and difficult decisions: major changes needed at the level of societies

Democratic decision-making can ensure better acceptance of the difficult decisions that are necessary to face climate challenges. Decisions such as reducing emissions, promoting renewable energy sources and limiting environmentally harmful practices are often met with resistance. However, the democratic process allows for the exchange of opinions, discussion and compromise in order to find solutions that are acceptable to the majority of the population.

One concept that plays a key role in preserving the environment is “Environmental Democracy”. This approach is based on the idea that decisions about the use of land and natural resources must be based on the interests of citizens, not just on profit or political interests. At its core, as stated by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, environmental democracy includes three key rights:

  • the right of citizens to freely access information about the state of the environment,
  • the right to participate in the decision-making process and
  • the right to seek environmental enforcement or compensation for damages.

It is important to emphasize that achieving goals in the fight against climate change, such as limiting global warming to 1.5°C, requires social justice and equality as key aspects of development strategies. Limiting global warming must not come at the expense of the poor and disenfranchised. Societies must work to create pathways that will enable sustainable development and at the same time ensure equality and justice for all.

Major changes are needed at all levels of society, politics and business in order to avoid the most devastating consequences of climate change and environmental degradation. Strong and efficient democratic institutions play a key role in achieving these goals. This includes transparent decision-making, accountable governance systems and the political will to implement decisions that will protect our planet.

Democracy and democratic processes can play a key role in saving the environment and the planet from climate change. By democratizing decision-making and promoting environmental democracy, we can ensure that the decisions that are made reflect the real needs of citizens and the environment. Only through joint action and democratic processes can we achieve a sustainable future for all. The only question is whether we have the will, strength and time for it.