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Climate action and democracy go hand in hand

Climate action is needed urgently, according to the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). For us to halt global warning we must cut down on our CO2 emissions more and faster than planned. Work for the climate needs everyone to do their part.

Democracy is an important foundation for effective climate work. Civil society, free press and an active international community are at the very core of ambitious climate politics. They also push decision makers and, now more than ever, also companies to do more for the climate. Many democracies have been able to commit to international climate agreements better, pass stricter environmental policies and set more ambitious climate goals than their non-democratic counterparts. Stopping climate change takes consistent, goal-oriented politics, that don’t change when governments do.

Battling climate change also requires investments which we as a society must be willing to make. That, in turn, means that decision makers need to have the support of the people when the time comes to pay the bill. Open and participatory dialogue and decision making are key in gaining and sustaining this support.

Democracy also needs to be renewed. Climate change draws in new people wanting to make change, not necessarily through the established ways of participation but through a plethora of new ways instead. Many want to participate in more spontaneous, short-term advocacy through for example social media and citizen’s initiatives. There are many examples of citizen organized events and citizen led initiatives trying to affect climate politics, and there needs to be as many different ways of participating in climate advocacy and decision making as possible. Yet, more traditional ways of participation, such as through political parties, also need to be renewed. Different groups, especially women, youth, indigenous people and vulnerable groups must be actively engaged in work for the climate.

The work for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals and halting climate change must be done in cooperation, every day. Different goals are also mutually reinforcing – for example Goal 16, under which work is being done for peace, justice and strong institutions also supports efforts for fighting climate change. Democracies with reliable, functioning institutions and low corruption rates set higher than average goals for their cuts in emissions. Work for democracy and work for the climate support each other, and now, more than ever, they must be done hand in hand.

* Demo Finland regularly publishes columns by representatives of its member parties. The views expressed in the columns are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Demo Finland. 

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