Democracy, Democratization and Climate Change


Democracy, Democratization and Climate Change

DEMOCRATIZATION, Volume 19, Number 5, October 2012 - Edited by Peter Burnell and Jana Mittag

Relationships between democracy and more particularly democratization on the one side and climate change and responses to that on the other are underexplored in the two literatures on democratization and climate change. A special issue of the journal DEMOCRATIZATION, jointly edited by Peter Burnell, Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick, and Jana Mittag, Head of Democracy Promotion Department of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, explores a variety of facets of this complex and interdependent relationship with several contributions by Heinrich Böll Foundation authors.

The full special issue of DEMOCRATIZATION is available from Taylor & Francis here.


Select Articles (see below for article abstracts) focus on the nature of the relationship between democratization and climate change, on ways to democratize the governance of climate change financing, the view of civil society activtists dealing with the resource curse, and the involvement of civil society in national strategies to combat climate change. For further information on these four articles, please contact Liane Schalatek at Liane.Schalatek[at] 


Democracy, democratization and climate change: complex relationships

By Peter Burnell

Relationships between democracy and more particularly democratization on the one side and climate change and responses to that on the other are underexplored in the two literatures on democratization and climate change. A complex web exists, characterized by interdependence and reciprocal effects. These must be plotted in as systematic and comprehensive a way as possible. Only then can we establish whether democratization really matters for climate change and for responding adequately to the challenges it poses. And only then can we assess the consequences that a changing climate might have for democracy and democratization. Implications follow for international efforts to support the spread of democracy around the world and for climate governance. This collection of theoretically informed and empirically rooted studies combines insights from academics and more policy-oriented writers. A major objective is to facilitate dialogue among not just analysts of democracy, democratization and climate change but with actors in two fields: international democracy support and climate action.



Perspectives on resource politics in a climate constrained world: how ‘resource curse’ activists view climate change

By Lili Fuhr and Sarah Wykes

This examination of the views of activists combating the oil ‘resource curse’ in Africa inquires whether their efforts to improve resource governance are challenged by the imperatives of climate protection. After outlining the ‘resource curse’, namely the ‘rentier effect’ whereby resource rich governments dampen democratic pressures, it outlines why current development models are questioned by the need to decarbonize economies to combat climate change and related environmental threats. Activists say lack of political will and appropriate institutional frameworks are the main obstacles to better oil governance. Most see connections between improved revenue transparency and greater accountability of state and corporate actors but are less clear on links to democratization. The relevance of improving climate protection is not grasped uniformly: some think greater prioritization of climate protection could weaken their countries’ development progress; others see it as integral to ‘sustainable development’. This last point provides a potential basis for greater interaction between ‘resource curse’ activists and activists working for improved climate protection, possibly benefiting the objectives of both sets of actors.



Democratizing climate finance governance and the public funding of climate action

By Liane Schalatek

Addressing climate change – its causes, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and its worst impacts on some of the poorest countries and societal groups – requires many billions of dollars. A significant portion of short- and long-term finance will have to come from industrialized countries in the form of public money transferred to developing countries, for private sector investment and carbon markets are unlikely to be sufficient. This is not only an international treaty obligation of the historic polluter countries, but also a matter of upholding human rights. However, nothing less than the democratization of climate finance governance is needed. Democratic core principles such as accountability, transparency and public and gender equitable participation in decision-making must guide the mobilization of public climate funding, and the governance and administration of these resources and their allocation to recipients. Citizens in contributing and recipient countries have a right and an obligation to be informed about and involved in how public money is utilized to address climate change. Only then will concrete mitigation and adaptation action be effective, efficient and equitable.



Perspectives on civic engagement in national strategies to combat climate change

By Jana Mittag

Only democratic political systems can ensure a reliable and continuous inclusion of the interests of citizens and a commitment to addressing their needs. This contribution focuses on how citizens can engage in developing answers in fighting climate change and adapting to its impacts. Employing the function model of civil society developed by Merkel and Lauth, it draws on practical experience revealed by concrete examples and offers a systematization of the roles and functions that civil society can play in combating climate change. Examples of successful civic engagement on the community and national levels cover different perspectives and entry points, such as human rights, environmental and energy issues, and consumer protection. Transitions to stable democracy have become the object of significant international democracy support, so the account concludes that democracy’s international supporters must understand the complexity that climate change brings to livelihoods at the community level and the potential benefits of pursuing greater interaction with civic engagement at the local and national levels. 


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