Table of Contents

Research Handbook on Climate Governance

Research Handbook on Climate Governance

Edited by Karin Bäckstrand and Eva Lövbrand

The 2009 United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen is often represented as a watershed in global climate politics, when the diplomatic efforts to negotiate a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol failed and was replaced by a fragmented and decentralized climate governance order. In the post-Copenhagen landscape the top-down universal approach to climate governance has gradually given way to a more complex, hybrid and dispersed political landscape involving multiple actors, arenas and sites. The Handbook contains contributions from more than 50 internationally leading scholars and explores the latest trends and theoretical developments of the climate governance scholarship.

Chapter 38: Environmental democracy

Frank Fischer

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental governance and regulation, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental governance and regulation


It is widely asserted in environmental political theory that the solution to the environmental crisis, including the climate change crisis, is more democracy. Indeed, this has given rise to an extensive literature on ecological citizenship and environmental democracy. But a sober assessment of the possibility of establishing environmental democracy in the time available suggests we need to think more carefully about this assertion. If the worse crisis scenarios evolve, many people are likely to concentrate on protecting their own interests rather than those of society at large. Support for technological over social solutions will grow, as it will for forms of eco-authoritarianism in the name of survivalism. Leading thinkers employ the analogy of war, when democracy is shelved for a period of time. There is thus a need to think more practically about how democratic values and practices might be preserved should future generations face such a crisis. In search of an alternative, the chapter argues for paying more attention to localism and the global ecovillage movement more specifically. If people have to flee unlivable cities, there may be much to learn from people who have already sustainable communities based on forms of participatory democratic governance.

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