World Forum for Democracy 2021

Can Democracy Save the Environment?

 8-10 November 2021

More than ever we see the interdependence of our physical and our political worlds. On a planet in crisis, does democracy have what it takes to save the environment?

Our societies have been tested by an extreme and unexpected global challenge, but while an essential battle is fought against the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences, humanity’s greatest existential threat looms ever larger. Environmental damage and climate change have not gone away. The poisoning of our land and pollution in our air and water is still killing plants, animals and humans alike. Rising temperatures and sea levels are on course to render lands uninhabitable and force people to leave their homes and seek new lives. The time to act is now!

Yet recent polling indicates the highest ever recorded levels of dissatisfaction and mistrust with democracy as a system of government. Its response to a whole series of recent challenges – economic, pandemic, and indeed environmental – have disappointed millions of people. Many are questioning the capacity, competence and even legitimacy of democratic governance to address their greatest needs.

So, when it comes stopping and reversing the devastating damage done to our environment, we must ask ourselves what it really takes to get the job done. How to ensure that democratic leadership be capable of the swift and decisive action required? If our current way of life is incompatible with our long-term health and survival, how can we mobilise ourselves to make fundamental change? What economic, civil and human rights price are we willing to pay? Has the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated that we are in fact capable of great shifts in our habits at times of need? Could new restrictions and behavioural change also “flatten the curve” of environmental damage? Do our governments enjoy sufficient trust to enable them to take the necessary action in time?