Martin Jänicke « Debatte

Martin Jänicke

17. Mai 2010,

Prof. Dr. Martin Jänicke has more than 35 years of experience as professor for comparative politics, scientific author and senior policy advisor. His books on state failure, ecological modernisation, or best practice in environmental policy have been translated in several languages. In 1998 he received the Prize of the Nature Protection Foundation in Berlin.

I fully agree to this paper. It is a valuable contribution to the governance debate of climate protection.

– It is generally true that democratic systems are generally in a better position to introduce and implement ambitious environmental policies. This could be shown in a comparative study on the environmental policy in the industrialised countries, which included the East European communist countries. The study came to the conclusion, that it is not primarily the institutional set-up of representative democracy, but rather the constitutional rights – participatory, legal and informational interests which appear to be decisive. Successful environmental policy depends on active proponents and the political, economic and cognitive opportunity structure of the country (Jänicke 1996).

– Today however and regarding climate policy things are by far more complicated. How can we understand the fact, that China has steadily fixed stricter targets for renewable energies – the 2020 target for wind power now being 150.000 MW! What is the comparable performance of “strong” democracies like US, Canada, or Australia?

– There is a democratic potential of climate change: It can have a mobilisation effect (e. g. prevention of several coal power stations in Germany). It can lead to pressure against corruption and illegitimate lobby power. It can support transparency and pluralistic networking. It has – by the way – contributed to a learning process in global governance.

– But climate policy must be to a high degree a technocratic process. This begins with a problem perception by an international body of scientists (IPCC). It leads to complicated calculations of targets and sub-targets. And the process will only be successful, if a strong government – a Green New Deal! – provides regulations that create the markets for climate friendly technologies. The necessary radical innovations go beyond the “normal” innovation which markets can provide.

– China is a strong player because (and as long?) climate policy has this technocratic dimension.

– Democracies have at least the chance to put the technocratic process under pressure. Today this may be the most important postulate. However, there are many other pressures in climate policy: The competitive pressure exerted by other countries, pressure from oil prices, pressure on export industries from regulatory risks in other countries etc.

– There is also more than one single mode of legitimation: Beyond democratic input legitimation there is a general trend towards output legitimation: legitimation by achievement, by welfare and employment effects, or by the consensus of stakeholders.

– If the challenge of climate change necessitates a response which is “equivalent to war”, then the postulate of democracy may have not the first priority. Systemic changes like democratization need time and time is a resource which we do not have.

– The best the Western democracies can do to promote democracy may be the domestic credibility and performance regarding dramatic challenges like climate change.

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  1. The finding that it is not so much the institutional set-up of representative democracy but rather the constitutional rights – participatory, legal and informational interests – that appear to be decisive in giving democracies the advantage for introducing and implementing ambitious environmental policies is extremely interesting. Perhaps this and an elaboration of what it means for promoting democracy should be incorporated in the deliberations of the democracy promoters, if it is not already present there.

    For sure climate change – both a general interest in mitigation and a more particular concern about the effects of climate instability on one’s personal life and livelihood – can have and have had a mobilisation effect in a variety of countries, some organised more democratically than others. The sceptics and those whose interests dictate opposition to radical action on climate change have also been mobilised. While the lessons for global governance are ambiguous, you are right to draw attention to the greater potential for subjecting technocratic processes to close scrutiny and control in democracies compared to non-democracies.

    The observation that the best that Western democracies can do to promote democracy abroad may be their domestic credibility and performance regarding dramatic challenges like climate change is thought–provoking. Perhaps the reverse could also be said: the best chance for an adequate response to climate change by governments everywhere, irrespective of the type of political regime, is for the world’s main established democracies to (continue) to be seen to take a strong lead in their domestic response to climate change, most notably by implementing ambitious targets for reducing emissions. The thought that this domestic effort could serve to promote both democracy and robust climate action around the world is very appealing.

    Thank you.

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