Allgemein « Debatte

Ingrid Hoven (deutsch)

28. September 2010, Comments (0)

Den Klimawandel so einzudämmen, dass er für die Menschheit verkraftbar bleibt und die Grundlage für ein annehmbares Leben nicht gänzlich zerstört, erfordert bekanntermaßen enorme Anstrengungen, einen gesellschaftlichen und wirtschaftlichen Umbruch nur mit den Transformationen nach dem zweiten Weltkrieg oder der industriellen Revolution vergleichbar. Die Wissenschaft fordert seit langem ein „Apollo-Projekt“ – ein visionäres, durchgeplantes Programm, dass die Umgestaltung unserer Zivilisation in dem notwendigen engen Zeitrahmen konsequent voranbringt. Nach dem Scheitern der Verhandlungen in Kopenhagen liegt die Frage noch drängender auf der Hand, ob die Verfasstheit der westlichen politischen Systeme es zulässt, diese gewaltige Reformleistung auf den Weg zu bringen. Oder um es mit Anthony Giddens zu paraphrasieren: „Wie kommen wir in einem parlamentarischen System, das vom Streit der Parteien lebt, mit der ökologischen Transformation unserer Gesellschaften voran?“. Peter Burnell ist nicht nur dieser Frage nachgegangen und hat dabei die vorliegende, tendenziell schmale Evidenz aus der entwicklungspolitischen Praxis und Forschung ausgewertet. Er stellt sich folgerichtig auch die Frage, ob die notwendigen klimapolitischen Veränderungen (Klimaschutz und die geordnete oder ertragende Anpassung) die fragilen Demokratisierungsprozesse in den Entwicklungsländern und aufstrebenden Ökonomien verstärkt oder schwächt und welche Folgerungen daraus für die entwicklungspolitische Praxis zu ziehen sind. Im Kern bestätigt er die herkömmlichen Vermutungen: Für eine steigende Zahl fragiler und schwacher Staaten, die ihre Bevölkerung kaum vor den Folgen des Klimawandels schützen können, sind konfliktverstärkende Risiken zu erwarten und davon ausgehend zusätzliche destabilisierende Effekte auf der nationalen und internationalen Ebene. Die vom Klimawandel ausgelöste zunehmende Gefährdung existentieller Menschenrechte wie Zugang zu Wasser und Ernährung sowie die sich abzeichnende steigende Migration stellen krisenverschärfende Faktoren dar, die für junge, sich erst noch festigende Demokratien zusätzliche Bürden darstellen (siehe auch Globale Trends 2010, 267 ff.).

Was folgt aus der Analyse Burnells für das praktische Handeln? Demokratien und die Reform von politischen Systemen in Richtung liberaler Demokratien können per se nicht als Garant für einen verantwortungsvollen Umgang mit der Klimaherausforderung gelten. Und vice versa: die Folgen des Klimawandels und die notwendigen CO2-Einsparungen konstituieren politische Risiken, die die Legitimitätl demokratisch verfasster Systeme untergraben können und den Druck auf autoritäre Regime zusätzlich erhöhen.. Das Ausmaß der politischen Risiken ist von Land zu Land unterschiedlich ausgeprägt und hängt – wie auch bei der Bewältigung anderer, allerdings weniger komplexer Krisen – von den in Staat und Gesellschaft ausgebildeten „Anpassungsfähigkeiten“ ab. Die Vereinbarkeit der Zielsetzungen „Festigung freier, demokratischer Systeme“ und „Schutz der natürlichen Überlebensgrundlagen für die Menschheit“ wird umso wahrscheinlicher, je stärker die staatlichen institutionellen Kapazitäten (auch strategischen Planungskapazitäten) sind, je besser die Qualität des politischen Managements wird, je breiter der Raum für diskursive Prozesse zur Entwicklung neuer Handlungsoptionen angelegt ist und je umfassender die Bewusstseinsbildung und Einbindung verschiedener gesellschaftlicher Gruppen in Entscheidungsprozesse gelingt (siehe Seite 30). Ohne Zweifel sind die Voraussetzungen, dies zu bewerkstelligen, in demokratisch verfassten Systemen nach bisherigen Erfahrungen wesentlich günstiger.

Vor diesem Hintergrund werden Maßnahmen im Rahmen der entwicklungs- und klimapolitischen Zusammenarbeit vorrangig umgesetzt werden müssen, die in der Breite die Qualität staatlichen und gesellschaftlichen Handelns stärken. Dazu sind u.a. zu zählen: die Erhöhung des allgemeinen Bildungsniveaus, der Ausbau von Hochschulbildung und Forschung, die Stärkung von Good Governance und Rechtstaatlichkeit sowie die Korruptionsbekämpfung.

Aus den bisherigen Erfahrungen mit überstülpten und auch unvollendeten Demokratisierungsprozessen ist Burnells Empfehlung zu unterstützen, angesichts der zusätzlichen ökonomischen und finanziellen Belastungen durch den Klimawandel – insb. bei schwachen staatlichen Strukturen – den Aufbau der dringend erforderlichen Organisations-Managementinfrastruktur nicht durch überfordernde und gewagte Demokratisierungsexperimente zu gefährden. Dies ist kein Plädoyer gegen die Förderung von Demokratisierungsprozessen – macht aber deutlich, dass angesichts der durch den Klimawandel voraussichtlich ausgelösten kumulativen Risiken, die Grenzen der Handlungsfähigkeit im Entstehen begriffener Demokratien und schwacher Staatsgebilde schnell erreicht sind. Der Klimawandel stellt in diesem Kontext eine zusätzliche Herausforderung dar und erfordert einen Ansatz der Demokratieförderung der umfassend angelegt ist und die Stärkung von Rechtstaatlichkeit und guter Regierungsführung mit einschließt.

Auch Burnell kommt zu dem Schluss, dass ein ganzheitlicher Ansatz gefordert ist und die Vertikalität der bisherigen Bearbeitung von „Menschlicher Sicherheit“, „Armutsbekämpfung“, „Förderung demokratischer Staaten“ und „Schutz der natürlichen Lebensgrundlagen“ durch internationale und nationale Organisationen, NGOs und Stiftungen überwunden werden muss. Viele noch ungenutzte Potentiale für Win-Win-Situationen werden aufgezeigt – auch dies ist nicht neu. Offen bleibt, über welche Mechanismen dies besser als in der Vergangenheit bewerkstelligt werden soll. Burnell unterstreicht aber eindringlich, dass zögerliches Handeln an der „Klimafront“ die Erreichung der anderen, vorgenannten entwicklungspolitischen Ziele in weite Ferne rückt, und es insofern kein „entweder oder“ sondern nur ein „sowohl als auch“ geben kann. Folgerichtig liegt die zentrale Herausforderung für alle politischen Systeme darin, den notwendigen gesellschaftlichen Konsens für die anstehenden Transformationsprozesse herzustellen und die dafür notwendigen diskursiven Formate und Freiräume zu gestalten. Auf die Unterstützung dieser Prozesse sollte die Entwicklungspolitik ein noch größeres Augenmerk legen.

Zwei Fragestellungen in der Analyse Burnells sind insgesamt zu kurz gekommen:
Der Klimawandel ist nicht geschlechterneutral. Aber auch in der Analyse von Burnell – wie insgesamt in der aktuellen klimapolitischen Debatte – findet die Genderperspektive zu geringe Aufmerksamkeit (siehe dazu B. Rodenberg, Anpassung an den Klimawandel aus Geschlechterperspektive, DIE Discussion Paper, 21/2009). Gerade der Nexus Klimawandel- Demokratieförderung erfordert eine vertiefte Betrachtung der Akteurskonstelationen und der Chancen und Risiken für mehr Geschlechtergerechtigkeit.

Der zweite Aspekt betrifft die Implikationen für demokratische Prozesse in den Entwicklungsländern durch die zu erwartenden zusätzlichen Finanzströme aus einem neuen Klimaregime. Es stellt sich die Frage, ob es gelingt diese Finanzströme so zu kanalisieren, dass die Mitwirkung der Bevölkerung, der lokalen Ebenen und der demokratischen Instanzen gestärkt werden oder besteht die Gefahr, dass Parallelstrukturen entstehen, die sich der allgemeinen Rechenschaftspflicht und der gesellschaftlichen Kontrolle entziehen ? In diesem Falle wäre weder dem Klimaschutz noch dem Aufbau demokratischer Systeme gedient.

Ingrid-Gabriela Hoven ist seit über 20 Jahren in der Entwicklungspolitik tätig.

Dieser beitrag existiert auch auf Englisch.

Helmut Wiesenthal (deutsch)

28. September 2010, Comments (0)

Helmut Wiesenthal, geb. 1938, Soziologe und Politikwissenschaftler, zuletzt von 1994 bis 2003 Professor am Institut für Sozialwissenschaften der Humboldt-Universität Berlin. Seine Arbeitsthemen sind kollektive Akteure, industrielle Beziehungen, Institutionen der Interessenvermittlung, institutioneller Wandel, Globalisierung, Reformpolitik und Gesellschaftssteuerung.

Was Peter Burnell in seiner kenntnisreichen Analyse herausarbeitet, ist für klimabesorgte Weltpolitiker nicht gerade ermutigend. Erscheint schon der Zusammenhang von Entwicklung und Demokratisierung in den einst zur Dritten Welt gezählten Ländern mehr und mehr diffus, seitdem die rund 100 „emerging economies“ die Hälfte des Weltsozialprodukts bestreiten, umso diffuser müssen die Zusammenhänge im Zieldreieck von Entwicklung, Demokratie und CO2-Reduktion wirken. Burnells Studie ermahnt den Leser, einigen längst erahnten, aber oft uneingestandenen Zweifeln Raum zu geben, von denen hier sieben umrissen werden.

1. Die Entdeckung des anthropogenen Klimawandels, der wesentlich eine Folge der Ausbeutung fossiler Energien und damit eine Begleiterscheinung der industriegesellschaftlichen Modernisierung ist, lässt den letzten Rest von Modernisierungsvertrauen, das schon durch Umweltzerstörung und die Risiken von Wissenschaft und Technik beeinträchtigt ist, dahinschwinden. Natürlich wollen wir, dass es allen Menschen auf Erden so gut oder womöglich noch besser geht als uns im Europa des frühen 21. Jahrhunderts. Aber inzwischen ist klar: Auf dem Weg zu diesem Ziel wird das Ziel immer weniger erreichbar – und der Weg selbst immer riskanter.

2. Während wir mit besorgtem Wohlwollen den Aufstieg Chinas und die beschleunigte Modernisierung vieler ehemaliger Entwicklungsländer betrachten, müssen wir nolens volens zur Kenntnis nehmen, dass genau in dem Maße, wie sie zum Motor des globalen Geschehens und Garanten niedriger Preise für immer leistungsfähigere Konsumgüter werden, „unsere“ Position als Oberlehrer und Erklärer des Weltgeschehens erodiert. Egal wie besorgt wir über das sein mögen, was demnächst und in 20, 50 oder 100 Jahren der Fall sein mag, unsere Sicht der Dinge ist immer weniger „entscheidend“ und für das Ergebnis nahezu irrelevant. Europa, die Region, in welcher der globale Modernisierungsprozess seinen Ausgang nahm, wird in weniger als 30 Jahren für nur noch fünf Prozent des Weltsozialprodukts stehen – und gleichzeitig vom „Rest“ der Welt, der in Wirklichkeit die Mehrheit ist, als Urheber vieler akkumulierter Weltübel angesehen werden.

3. Burnell zeigt, dass es keinen systematischen und verlässlichen Zusammenhang zwischen dem Stand der Demokratie und der Fähigkeit eines Landes zu präventiver Klimapolitik gibt. Er sagt sehr nüchtern: Gelänge es, den Klimawandel zu begrenzen, wäre das gewiss vorteilhaft für die (weitere) Demokratisierung vieler Länder. Aber ausgehend vom Status quo versprechen Fortschritte bei der Demokratisierung keineswegs Fortschritte bei der Verringerung der Treibhausgasemissionen. Politik in der demokratischen Mediengesellschaft ist allzu sehr den Tagesaktualitäten, Lobbyinteressen und Aufmerksamkeitskonjunkturen verpflichtet. Und vor allem Anderen zählt der nächste Wahltermin: Warum sonst würde sich die SPD so lerneifrig den zukunftsblinden Interessen vieler Wähler andienen und sich von ihren Agenda-2010-Reformen distanzieren? So scheint auch die Klimapolitik nicht anders als die Renten-, Arbeitsmarkt- und Steuerpolitik vom Übergewicht des Kurz- über das Langfristige, des Eigen- über das Gemeinnützige sowie von der Logik des politischen Macht- und Reputationswettbewerbs bestimmt.

4. Claus Leggewie und Harald Welzer sind in ihrem Essay in Transit 36 („Können Demokratien den Klimawandel bewältigen?“) zu einem ähnlichen Ergebnis wie Peter Burnell gekommen. Wie dieser halten sie hierzulande „mehr Demokratie“ im Sinne des Ausbaus partizipatorischer Formen für hilfreich, wenn es darum geht, Verständnis für klimapolitische Opfer und Lasten zu wecken. Während Burnell den alten Industrieländern noch die Aufgabe zuweist, den Ärmsten der Weltbevölkerung unter die Arme zu greifen, um ihnen die Anpassung an den Klimawandel zu erleichtern, machen Leggewie und Welzer darauf aufmerksam, dass die frühindustrialisierten Länder, also „wir“, sich für „Hauptdarsteller“ in einem Spiel halten, bei dem sie nur noch Zuschauer sind. Das trifft auch auf unseren Beitrag zum Klimawandel zu. Man möge sich einmal ausmalen, welche Färbung basisdemokratische Debatten über die Zumutbarkeit von Klimaopfern annehmen werden, wenn sich herumgesprochen hat, wie wenig Einfluss das Emissionsverhalten Deutschlands auf das Weltklima hat. Weil Deutschland mit weniger als vier Prozent zu den weltweiten CO2-Emissionen beiträgt, kann es durch Absenkung seines Emissionsniveaus um 80 % gegenüber 2005 eine globale Temperaturminderung von allenfalls 0,01 Grad bewirken.

5. Aber sind nicht der beachtliche Ausbau der erneuerbaren Energien und die Bereitschaft der EU zu einem Weltklimaabkommen wichtige praktische Schritte, um andere Länder zum Nacheifern zu motivieren? Ja und nein. Einige Länder mit einer homogenen Bevölkerung, tief verankertem Umwelt- und Verantwortungsbewusstsein und großer Aufgeschlossenheit gegenüber strukturellem Wandel, wie etwa Schweden, werden vermutlich die Dekarbonisierung ihrer Volkswirtschaft schaffen. Andere mit einem ungünstigeren Portfolio aus moralischem und realem Kapital werden auf entsprechende Anstrengungen verzichten. Und etliche, wahrscheinlich die meisten, zu denen wohl auch Deutschland zählt, werden mit einer gemischten Bilanz aus sinnvollen, unsinnigen und unterlassenen Innovationen aufwarten. Wirtschaftswissenschaftler schlagen vor, die sinnvollen Innovationen anhand der Vermeidungskosten für eine Tonne CO2 zu ermitteln, für deren Emission ungefähr 15 Euro an der Europäischen Energiebörse zu zahlen sind. Würden wir das tun, müssten wir einräumen, dass es beim Ausbau der Erneuerbaren oft nur um Industrie- und Symbolpolitik, aber nicht um verringerte CO2-Emissionen geht. Denn die Förderung der Fotovoltaik würde mit sage und schreibe 1.000 Euro pro vermiedener Tonne CO2 zu Buche schlagen, wenn sie denn überhaupt zur Emissionsminderung beitrüge (was nicht der Fall ist, weil die Stromerzeuger eingesparte Emissionsrechte an Eigentümer schmutziger Kraftwerke verkaufen).

6. Aber sind nicht Demokratien, vor allem solche mit einer starken Umweltbewegung im Lande, am besten geeignet, auf internationaler Bühne als leuchtendes Vorbild und engagierte Verhandlungspartner für ein globales Klimaabkommen zu sorgen? Die ehrliche Antwort lautet Nein. Den Gutwilligen aus den reichen Ländern fehlt nicht nur ein plausibles Argument, warum das mögliche Schicksal ungeborener Generationen mehr zählen soll als das reale Schicksal der von realen Existenzproblemen geplagten realen Bevölkerung in den ärmeren Ländern. Die Bereitschaft der „Reichen“, mit eindrucksvollen Vorleistungen zu glänzen, schlägt sich aufgrund des (speziell unter demokratischen Bedingungen verstärkten) Eigeninteresses der Staaten in größerer Zurückhaltung und Trittbrettfahrertum der anderen nieder. Das hat gerade der Wissenschaftliche Beirat des Bundesfinanzministeriums in seinem Gutachten „Klimapolitik zwischen Emissionsvermeidung und Anpassung“ klar herausgearbeitet. Ein aktueller Beleg ist auch die Ignoranz, die die Abgesandten der größten Emissionsländer den EU-Vertretern auf der Kopenhagener Klimakonferenz gezeigt haben. Rationale Klimapolitik sollte sich an den realen und real erreichbaren Wirkungen messen lassen und nicht so sehr an den Meinungen und Gefühlen, die sie im eigenen Lande wecken will.

7. Schließlich bliebe noch die Möglichkeit einer Rettung der Welt durch Lebensstil- und Bewusstseinswandel sowie die entsprechende „Ökologisierung“ des Alltagshandelns. Klar ist, dass diese Option eher in Demokratien eine Chance besitzt als unter autoritären Verhältnissen, wo jede Abweichung von der Normalität riskiert, als Dissidenz verfolgt zu werden. Und tatsächlich ist nicht nur die Ausbreitung des Edel-Konsumstils der LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability) zu beobachten, sondern wachsendes Interesse an Energieeinsparung, Ökostrom, Bioprodukten u.a.m. Dennoch ergibt sich daraus keineswegs eine ermutigende Bilanz in Sachen Emissionsminderung. Denn eine Vielzahl der gutgemeinten Aktivitäten verpufft, weil sie nicht zu den institutionellen Rahmenbedingungen passen (wie z.B. Stromsparen und Solarstromeinspeisung unter dem Emissionshandelssystem) oder weil der Energieaufwand bei der Produktion den vermeintlichen Klimanutzen übersteigt.

Mit Oliver Geden („Strategischer Konsum statt nachhaltiger Politik“ in Transit 36) ist „eine immense Überschätzung politisierter Alltagspraxis“ zu beklagen – und zwar vor allem, weil dabei effektivere Möglichkeiten der Einflussnahme auf Politik, wie sie in Demokratien gegeben sind, außeracht bleiben. Darum verdienen die Bürgerinnen und Bürger endlich eine nüchternen und ehrliche Bewertung der klimapolitischen Optionen und Wirkungen, in der sie als urteilsfähige Erwachsene respektiert werden. Dagegen ist Klimaschutz in Politik und Medien ein Thema, bei dem man allzu oft als unmündiges Erziehungsobjekt behandelt und mit falschen Informationen, z.B. über den angeblichen Klimanutzen von Energiesparlampen und Solarstrom, abgespeist wird – auf allen Kanälen und von allen Parteien einschließlich der Grünen. Aber gerade weil für effektiven Klimaschutz so viel getan werden müsste, kommt es darauf an, nicht irgendetwas, sondern möglichst viel vom Richtigen zu tun.

Dieser Beitrag existiert auch auf Englisch.

Thomas C. Hilde

12. Juli 2010, Comments (0)

Tom Hilde is Research Professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. He teaches courses on International Environmental Agreements, Moral Dimensions of Public Policy, Environment & Development, and Environmental Ethics. Prof. Hilde edited The Agrarian Roots of Pragmatism (with Paul B. Thompson) and the recent On Torture. He is currently working on several projects on climate change adaptation as sustainable development, international environmental agreements, and public ethics on environmental issues.

It’s important to keep in mind the nature of the problem of climate change. The mere existence of the hydro-geo-meteorological effects of climate change is in and of itself not the problem. The basic problem is centered on the largely adverse and accelerating effects on people and ecosystems. This core of the problem is compounded by the fact that the countries that are most responsible for anthropogenic climate change, developed nations, have benefited most from GHG-emitting economic activity – industrialization – while those countries that have least benefited are most vulnerable to the negative externality of industrialization that is anthropogenic climate change. Vulnerability is a function of a history of poverty, political and economic exploitation, and weak public institutions as well as geographical location. This is further compounded by the sobering reality that the fastest growing rate of emissions belongs to the major developing countries, with little end in sight. Yet again, this is compounded by the brute reality that climate change mitigation may only be achievable at a global level and that substantial climate change adaptation measures are inevitable and necessary. And, finally, this is all compounded by the common general conceptual framework for understanding climate change that places economic development and energy production and consumption in tension with the environment.  This dualism remains a basic assumption in international climate negotiations. It also provides a simple framework for public understanding of a complex aggregation of phenomena otherwise perceived as overly abstract. The dualism is a conceptual constraint on our ability to generate innovative political and moral answers as well as technological and economic solutions to the string of compounding factors that constitute the general problem of climate change.

Where does democracy fit in all of this? It depends on what we mean by democracy, of course. I’m not so sure, however, that there’s any necessary relation at all between climate stabilization and democratization. As Prof. Burnell shows, liberal democratic government does not necessarily entail more robust climate policy or immunity from the adverse effects of climate change nor, conversely, weak policy or climate vulnerability. We might talk about autocracy and climate change in similar terms. For those involved in the present discussion, however, climate stabilization and democratization are two widely shared and valued goals and we don’t wish to approach this as a zero-sum tradeoff. Although the conclusions of Prof. Burnell’s paper are mixed regarding the fate of democracy in the age of climate change, there is at least potential for more modest forms of democratization in the climate regime that we can and ought to grasp.

As a global public good, climate change mitigation is a global coordination issue or what Scott Barrett calls an aggregative effort good, one whose provision depends on the total effort of all countries (or at least all of the largest GHG-emitting states).  The existing coordinating institution is, of course, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Proposed initiatives are adopted or rejected by the (unanimous) vote of all parties in UNFCCC plenary sessions. Could we say that such an institution therefore functions as a kind of representative democracy? The 50,000-100,000 protestors at the UNFCCC meetings in Copenhagen last December didn’t think so. Despite the increased UNFCCC presence of NGOs representing minority and indigenous groups and various environmental concerns, state economic interests still form the basis of negotiations for each state. This is the case especially for the high emissions states and no less the democratic ones. Critics of the UNFCCC model have proposed alternative architectures for a climate regime, including regional or sectoral approaches. Thus far, however, the climate regime is largely composed of states bargaining with each other to minimize potential economic tradeoffs. Either mitigation or economic growth….

Stabilizing global climate at or below a 2°-Celsius rise in temperature from pre-industrial levels requires basic long-term infrastructural and behavioral changes to each society. It requires rethinking how societies produce and consume energy. And this must all occur under a significant time constraint in order to avert dangerous climate change. This is a tall order, but it can and must be done and Prof. Burnell nicely outlines the problems and promise of large-scale democratic politics and its counter forces at this juncture.

Prof. Burnell also rightly emphasizes the commitment to equality located at the core of liberal democracy. To speak in general terms, democracy is associated with equality, as well as freedom, fairness, and justice. This is partly because it is a method through which individuals add their voice – their own claims to justice and fairness – to the form and content of institutions through which individuals live their lives. These are fundamental elements in the exercise of individual autonomy.

I want here, however, to educe another core feature of what makes democracy such a viable and vital political form – its epistemological dimension – and how it relates to climate change adaptation. Democracy is not solely a means for treating each other as equals, ideally, or a means by which the public participates in crafting institutions and policy. Epistemologically, it is also the means through which the public’s concerns, needs, values, and interests come to be articulated and known in the first place. These needs, values, and interests will evolve of course and undergo revision as time passes. A democratic system allows for experiment and for error and correction. It allows for more flexible policy responses to changing social, economic, and environmental conditions. In the absence of democratic forums the interests of governing elites will naturally set policy priorities. These priorities may respond to what the ruling class and its experts view as the most pressing problems of the day, even sometimes with sincere concern for the well-being of the people. But the necessarily partial knowledge of this perspective may be accompanied by little awareness or understanding of conditions on the ground where environmental problems in particular are most immediately felt. Especially with complex problems such as climate change, any partial perspective is inadequate to the task of problem-solving precisely because it cannot recognize the problem in its full, multi-dimensional complexity. Responses will be partial as a consequence. Local democratic organizations and deliberative forums help fill out the larger picture by generating descriptive and evaluative information that is crucial for understanding the problem of climate change and for crafting and implementing sustainable mitigation and adaptation policy measures.

Local deliberative and participatory democratic approaches and climate change adaptation fit particularly well once we remind ourselves of this epistemological dimension of democracy. Given uncertainty about the effects of climate change, institutions designed to lessen the impact must be flexible enough to respond to unanticipated changes. When changing environmental conditions require institutional responses, adaptive, local democratic approaches may be more responsive in the short-term because comprised of input from those who feel the impacts. Yet, people hold different views on and apply different values to adaptation measures and their tradeoffs. Local democratic approaches to adaptation may be more resilient and legitimate over the longer-term since they comprise people’s different values and goals precisely at the point where individual autonomy meets collective decision-making.

Those who are most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, the poor, need help adapting to new conditions and needs. This is a concrete reality and a moral imperative. At the UNFCCC meetings in Copenhagen, developed countries committed to short-term and some long-term financing of mitigation and adaptation efforts in the most vulnerable developing countries while the Copenhagen Accord calls for the establishment of a Green Climate Fund. These pledges remain modest and vaguely-defined, but this is a start given that there’s nothing easy about the associated two-level games of international and domestic politics. Climate change adaptation, however, must become a full-blown effort connecting the international level of financial and technological obligations to the local level of thousands of adaptive development projects.

There are many cases from which to learn lessons about how to sustain or build adaptive and resilient socio-ecological systems at ground level incorporating democratic means. The capacity of the Balinese rice terrace and water temple system to sustain its functional integrity through adaptive, democratic management provides one particularly fascinating example.  These lessons should interject a greater sense of encouragement into discussions about the geopolitics and macro-trends of climate change and democratization. They can also help the UNFCCC and the Copenhagen Accord parties make their commitments to resolving the problem of climate change more concrete.

Thomas Saretzki

29. Juni 2010, Comments (1)

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Thomas Saretzki, born 1955, is Professor for Political Theory and Public Policy at the Center for the Study of Democracy, Leuphana University of Lueneburg. His primary areas of scholarly interest include democratic theory, political sociology and policy studies with a special focus on the relation of democracy and the environment and on new concepts of policy analysis and deliberation.

Context: trade-offs and identities
In the introductory remarks to the policy paper of Peter Burnell on “Climate change and democratisation”, the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung reminds the reader in the first sentence that this paper deals with two points of reference that are anything but peripheral to the foundation or the environmental movement as a whole. “Democracy and ecology constitute – among gender politics – the cornerstones of the work of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung.” Add non-violence to the list of cornerstones, then we are dealing with at least two of the four founding principles that political scientists considered to be basic to the environmental movement and to the green party in Germany.

Thinking critically about the basic ideas of one’s own activities can turn out to be a troublesome endeavour for all organisations or institutions. As they matter for their identity, thinking about the relation of some of these basic ideas can be even more troublesome, especially in organisations or institutions where some of these ideas mean more to some members or affiliates then to others. Even exploring possible trade-offs on the level of policies that are supposed to realize the norms and values associated with these basic ideas (such as climate policies vs. democratization policies) can be perceived as having implications for the balance between the “cornerstones” of a green foundation or political party. In this case, debates about the relation of specific environmental policies vis-à-vis democratization policies can raise deeper questions about the identity of the organisation as a whole: Are we primarily green or are we democratic in the first place? If we think about such debates in a frame-reflective way, we can realize that the issues involved in such a debate can not only be described as goal conflicts on the level of policies directed to solve complex political problems. Rather, different arguments and story-lines in the debate are rooted in and refer to different parts of the composite political identity of a collective actor formed out of different social and cultural constituencies. Green parties and their foundations never had a homogenous identity, but served as good examples for collective actors which social scientist conceived as having “multiple selves”.

Debates about possible trade-offs between policies related to different “cornerstones” of a political party with a “multiple self” (like the greens) may turn out to have another bridge to cross if the organisation decides to bring in scientific expertise to clarify political problems and possible policy options to solve these problems. If scientific knowledge about problems, problem solving strategies and their trade-offs is to help policy makers, it needs to be translated and re-interpreted by those engaged in political practices.

From my point of view, the Foundation has to be applauded to start a discussion on the relation of climate change and democratisation with this paper by Peter Burnell – even though some of its members and affiliates may think that such a discussion could be troublesome with regard to the organisation itself. The debate about the relation of climate change and democracy is going on anyway and has already reached various scientific publics and even some of the agenda setting media. The paper by Peter Burnell provides basic information on this complex relationship and raises a number of questions for science and policy makers alike from the perspective of a scholar well known in international relations and democratisation studies. However, this perspective and its specific way of constructing problems, dilemmas and policy choices require some rethinking as I shall try to indicate in the rest of this comment.

Hard evidence?
Although the term is explicitly used only once (p. 27) by Peter Burnell, the notion of “hard evidence” concerning greenhouse gas emissions and their relations to democracy appears at least implicitly as a premise in various lines of reasoning in some parts of the text. In other parts, however, the current status of empirical research on this relation is characterized as delivering very preliminary results at best (see the summary on p. 30). Thus, the whole notion that there is already (or ever could be, cf. p. 40) something like “hard evidence” on the relation of climate change and democracy is called into question: how hard is it really? And can we take that “evidence” as an empirically certain starting point for our debates about policy that is not plagued with the uncertainty and ambiguity we are confronted with in other fields of research on the relationship of man and the environment?
To be sure, this is not meant to join the camp of the climate sceptics who doubt that the climate change meteorologists are observing has anything to do with human activities at all. Rather, it is meant as a reminder that the “evidence” which scientific studies on the relation of climate change and democracy produced so far is anything but certain or unequivocal. Surveys of the field usually speak of “mixed evidence” when the research findings are reviewed. As I was arguing elsewhere, such a characterization remains pretty much on the surface. If we look more closely at the controversies that go on in the field and take the policy implications into account that almost all researchers in the field dwell upon at the end of their statistical studies, then we sooner or later come to realize that this “evidence” on the relation of climate change and democracy is not only “mixed”, but “contested” (Saretzki 2007).

As Burnell points out in his review of the literature, the results and conclusions produced in these studies depend upon the research designs, definitions, methods and indicators, source and quality of data, selection of country samples and time periods under investigation etc. And as I tried to show, the design of the studies often correspond with preferences for certain policy implications that are then presented as a result of an “objective” statistical analysis. In other words: there is no certain and unequivocal statistical basis for generalized conclusions concerning the relation of democracy and climate change. As in any other empirical study of the relation of democracy and the environment, we find not only mixed, but contested evidence. The extent and direction of the “democracy effect” depend on the research design of the studies. Moreover, the policy implications drawn from these studies reflect the policy preferences of the authors and very often also their preferences for or against different models of democracy in general.

Cruel choices?
From the perspective of a frame-reflective policy analysis, we can ask ourselves why certain stages or phases of a policy process are highlighted and how they are characterized in a specific policy approach. Considering Peter Burnell’s analysis of the possible trade-offs between climate and democratisation policy, the concept of “cruel choices” is most striking in that respect. Both words matter. First of all, if there has to be a choice among different policies, why is it characterized with a heavily burdened word like “cruel”? And: Cruel in what respect? Cruel for whom? For the policy makers who make policy decisions in liberal democracies or for some of the addressees of their policies? Here some social and contextual clarification would be helpful. Moreover, a less emotionalizing word is familiar from the notion of “hard choices” which is often used by ethicists who have a preference for framing problems of moral reasoning in the language of economics. However, even the more familiar notion of “hard choices” basically applies to individual moral decisions. Yet Burnell characterizes the policy dilemmas as “moral” (p. 37) without further qualifications. However, thinking about the fields of climate or democratization policy, we are talking about decisions in situations where trade-offs between policies might be expected. These decisions can also be described in a less dramatizing language, e.g. as problems of priority setting. Such policy issues usually involve questions of “more or less” rather than individual moral decisions that present themselves in a simple “either – or” fashion. In a more constructive approach, one might also conceptualize the trade-offs as problems of policy integration.

Secondly, why choice? That is to say: Why focus primarily on the decision phase in the problem solving process? Before we must make a choice, we might want to know what the policy options are that can be chosen? Every choice that is supposed to be a real choice between alternative options requires the formulation of policy options that are or at least can be justified as making a difference. Neglecting this process of formulating and justifying alternative policy options is to fall prey to the TINA-Syndrom (“There Is No Alternative”). To make the point in broader terms: Why not refer to all the stages in a policy process that we can distinguish in most instances where societal or environmental problems are to be treated by political actors and institutions? For instance, it is a well known commonplace in the history of environmental policy that very often implementation is the most relevant problem in terms of actual changes in the environmental situation, rather than decision per se. Focussing on the aspect of choice, we might have a decision but lack a solution. Neglecting the question of how the choices are constructed and justified in a policy process leads into a decisionist concept of democracy. To avoid that pitfall, concepts analyzing and reflecting the process of opinion- and will-formation that precedes choice are required. Such concepts can be found in the family of theories of democracy which are often labelled as deliberative. From a policy perspective, a concept of democracy is required that includes all aspects of problem solving and conflict resolution from deliberation to decision and implementation.

Capacity vs. commitment?
At some point in the text, Burnell wonders whether good governance “may matter much more than democracy per se”. Reading this speculation, however, one is immediately inclined to say: yes, it may, but it can also be the other way round. In other words: the perspective of Burnell’s problematization appears to be one-sided. In the light of this perspective, democracies seem to have the commitment, but not the capacity to act in the field of climate policy (p. 35). However, there may also be cases in which there are democracies having the capacity, but not the commitment to take effective action. Capacity and commitment – both need to be addressed as critical steps towards effective climate and democratization policies.

Coordination vs. political questions?
In his summary, Peter Burnell (2009: 40-42) argues that there are open questions which fall into two broad categories: “coordination questions” (which are supposed to be of “specific relevance to international organizations”) and “larger political questions”. From a policy perspective, this categorization is a little irritating, since the language used in this juxtaposition suggests that the first set of questions is not “political”, but only “coordinative”. Reading the questions closely, most of the sentences use the word “should” or some equivalent. Thus, what is labelled under the heading of “coordination” really turns out as a discussion of rather basic normative or prescriptive questions. This set of questions addresses what international organisations (and other political actors) should do in the two policy fields. While these “coordinative” questions clearly are concerned with an action-orientation addressing actors participating in a political field, the questions labelled “political” read much more like analytical ones to be answered from the perspective of an external observer, i.e. from empirical studies in political science. If we want to distinguish between different (primary) addressees of different sorts of questions and thus assign different tasks to different actors involved (political actors vs. political science), than a different categorization might be helpful for the reader.

Martin Jänicke

17. Mai 2010, Comments (1)

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.

Helmut Wiesenthal

28. April 2010, Comments (1)

Helmut Wiesenthal, born in 1938, is a sociologist and political scientist and was a professor from 1994 to 2003 at the Institute of Social Sciences at the Humboldt-University in Berlin. He specialises in collective actors, industrial relations, institutions of interest intermediation, institutional change, globalisation, policy reform, and social engineering.

What Peter Burnell raises in his well-informed analysis is not exactly encouraging for world leaders concerned about climate change. The connection between development and democratisation in former third world countries appear to be more and more ambiguous. Ever since about 100 “emerging economies” account for half of global output, the links between the triple goals of development, democracy and CO2 reduction have become even more blurred. Burnell’s study cautions the reader against giving too much attention to unfounded doubt, seven of which are outlined here.

1. The discovery of anthropogenic climate change, which is essentially a consequence of fossil fuel exploitation and therefore a by-product of industrial society’s modernisation, is causing the last traces of trust in modernisation, which is already damaged by environmental degradation and the risks of science and technology, to vanish. Of course we want everybody on earth to enjoy the same, or better, quality of life that we have in Europe now. But it is now clear: The road to this goal is becoming ever more risky and the likelihood of reaching this goal is waning.

2. While we observe China’s rise and the accelerated modernisation of many former developing countries with concerned goodwill, we must recognise that as they become the driver of global events and guarantor of low prices for ever more powerful consumer goods, our position as a leader in world affairs erodes to a proportionate degree. No matter how concerned we may be over this, the next situation, or how things will evolve in 20, 50 or 100 years, our view of things will always be less influential and almost irrelevant. Europe, the region where the global modernisation process began, will account for only 5% of world production in less than 30 years – but the rest of the world, which accounts for the majority, will continue to see us as the cause of many global problems.

3. Burnell shows that there is no systematic and reliable connection between the state of democracy and a country’s ability to enact preventative climate policy. He states very plainly: If efforts to prevent climate change were successful, it would certainly be advantageous for the (further) democratisation of many countries. But based on the status quo, progress in democratisation promises no progress in the reduction of greenhouse gases. Politics as presented by democratic media is too focussed on daily news, lobbying interests and attention cycles. And the most important issue is always the next election: Why else would the SPD be so eager to address the temporal interests of so many voters and distance themselves from their 2010 reform agenda? It appears that climate policy is not unlike pension, labour and tax policies in the sense that in the struggle for political power and recognition, more weight is given to short-term impacts than to the long-term and to individual benefits over the common good.

4. Claus Leggewie and Harold Welzer came to a similar conclusion as Peter Burnell in their essay in Transit 36 (“Can democracies deal with climate change?”). Like Burnell, they consider “more democracy”, in the sense of building a participatory framework, helpful in this country when it comes to awakening the understanding of climate policy victims and burdens. While Burnell still assigns the responsibility of helping the poor adapt to climate change to the old industrial countries, Leggewie and Welzer point out that industrially advanced countries consider themselves to be the main player in a game in which they are only spectators with little influence. This also touches on our contribution to climate change. One could imagine which direction the grassroots debate over climate victims would take once people realise how little influence Germany’s emissions behaviour has on the world’s climate. Since Germany contributes less than 4% to global CO2 emissions, an 80% emissions reduction in comparison to 2005 would at most result in a 0.01 degree reduction in global temperature.

5. But are the significant expansion of renewable energies and the willingness of the EU to enter into a global climate agreement not important practical steps to encouraging other countries to follow suit? Yes and no. Some countries with a homogeneous population, deeply ingrained sense of environmental awareness and responsibility, and openness to structural change, such as Sweden, are likely to achieve a decarbonisation of their economy. Others lacking both moral and real capital will not take on the challenge. And quite a few, probably the majority, which includes Germany, will come up with a mix of innovations that will prove to be partially meaningful and insufficient. Economists suggest that meaningful innovations should be identified based on their costs to abate one tonne of CO2, which is currently trading on the European Energy Exchange for about 15 €. Were we to do that, we would have to recognise that the development of renewables is often only about industrial and political symbolism, and not actually about reducing CO2 emissions. Believe it or not, the promotion of photovoltaics would cost 1000 € per tonne of CO2 avoided, if they contribute to emission reductions at all (which is not the case because resulting emission rights are sold to dirty power plants).

6. But are democracies, especially those with a strong environmental movement in the country, not in the best position to provide the international stage a shining example of an engaged negotiating partner for a climate change agreement? The honest answer is no. The good will of rich countries not only lack a plausible argument for why the possible fate of unborn generations should count more than the actual fate of real people in poor countries plagued by livelihood problems. The willingness of the “rich” to make impressive investments and progress in climate mitigation is rendered meaningless due to the (especially under strengthened democratic conditions) self-interest of states to restrain action and to follow the bandwagon. This was made clear by the report entitled “Climate policy between emission mitigation and adaptation” that was filed by Federal Finance Ministry’s Scientific Advisory Board. A recent example is also the ignorance that the envoys of the main emission producing countries within the EU showed at the Copenhagen climate conference. Rational climate policy should be measured against real and achievable outcomes, and not so much against the opinions and emotions that they stir up in their own countries.

7. Finally, there remains the possibility of saving the world through awareness and lifestyle changes, as well as the “greening” of everyday action. It is clear that this option is more likely to have a chance under democratic conditions than authoritarian conditions, where each deviation from the norm risks being persecuted for being inflammatory. And indeed, it is not only the spread of the elite consumerism style LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability) that can be observed, but also the growing interest in energy conservation, green energy and organic products, among others. However, this has not resulted in an encouraging record on emissions reduction. Many well-intentioned activities fizzle out because they do not fit into the institutional framework (such as energy-saving and solar electricity supply under the emissions trading system) or because the cost of energy production exceeds the intended climate benefits.

For Oliver Geden (“Strategic consumption rather than sustainable policy”), “the immense overestimation of politicised everyday practices” is something to complain about – mainly because more effective possibilities to influence policies, as available in democracies, remain in the shadows. Therefore, as discerning adults, citizens finally deserve a sober and honest evaluation of climate policy options and their effects. However, in reality, politics and the media (all channels and parties included, even the greens) all too often treat climate protection as an undeveloped educational topic and provide false information, such as the alleged climate benefits of energy saving light bulbs and solar energy. But precisely because so much needs to be done for effective climate protection, it is essential to focus our action on effective policies and not act indiscriminately.

This posting is also available in German.

Ingrid Hoven

28. April 2010, Comments (1)

In order to mitigate climate change so that it remains manageable for mankind and keeps the basis for a decent life intact, requires an enormous social and economic change that is only comparable to the Industrial Revolution or the transformation that took place after the Second World War. Scientists have long called for an “Apollo project” – a visionary plan to guide the transformation of our civilisation within a limited timeframe. Since the negotiations in Copenhagen failed, the question of whether or not the constitutionality of western political systems will allow this tremendous reform to come underway remains an even more pressing issue at hand. Or to paraphrase Anthony Giddens, “How do we move forward with the environmental transformation of our society, given a parliamentary system that thrives on disputes between the parties?” Peter Burnell has pursued not only this issue and re-evaluated the present and usually limited evidence from development policy practice and research, but he has also posed the logical question of whether the necessary climate policy changes (climate protection and co-ordinated or unavoidable mitigation) will strengthen or weaken the fragile democratisation processes in developing countries and emerging economies, and what lessons can be drawn for the practice of development policy. Basically, he confirms the usual assumptions: For a growing number of fragile and weak states that can barely protect their citizens from climate change impacts, conflict supporting risks are expected and additional destabilising effects at the national and international levels will ensue. The increasing climate change-induced risks to existential human rights, such as access to water and nutrition, or the growing migration crisis, represent crisis inducing factors, which will inflict additional burdens on young developing democracies. (see also Global Trends 2010, 267 ff.).

What does Burnell’s analysis mean for practical action? Democracies and reforming political systems towards liberal democracies cannot per se guarantee a responsible approach to the climate challenge. And vice versa: Climate change impacts and the necessary CO2 reductions constitute political risks that can undermine legitimate, democratic and constitutional systems, and in addition increase pressure on authoritarian regimes. The degree of political risk varies from country to country and depends – as in dealing with other, although less complex crises – on the state and society’s ability to adapt. The compatibility between the objectives of “free and stabile democratic systems” and “protection of natural resources essential for the survival of mankind” is more likely, the stronger the state institutional capacity (including strategic planning capacity) is, the better the quality of political management is, the more space there is for discursive processes to develop new options, and the more extensive awareness building and incorporation of different social groups in the decision making process is (see page 30). Without a doubt, the conditions to achieve this are, according to experience, more likely to occur in democratic systems.

Against this background, measures within the frame of development and climate policy cooperation must be implemented to strengthen the breadth and quality of state and social action. These measures inter alia include: increasing the general level of education, the expansion of education and research, the strengthening of good governance and rule of law, as well as fighting corruption.

Based on previous experiences with imposed and incomplete democratisation processes, we should heed Burnell’s recommendation that in light of the additional economic and financial costs of climate change – especially in weak state structures – the development of much-needed organisational and management infrastructure should not being jeopardised by burdensome and speculative democratisation experiments. This is not an argument against supporting democratisation processes – but it makes clear that given the cumulative risks likely to be triggered by climate change, the limitations of emerging democracies and states with weak structures to act will be quickly reached. In this context, climate change represents an additional challenge and necessitates a comprehensive approach to democracy building that includes strengthening the rule of law and good governance.

Burnell also comes to the conclusion that a holistic approach is required and that the, until now, vertical handling of “human security”, “poverty reduction”, “democracy building”, and the “protection of basic natural resources” by international and national organisations, NGOs and foundations must be overcome. Much of the still unused potential for win-win situations will emerge – but this is also not new. It remains unanswered, which mechanisms should we implement that would have a better impact than what has been tried in the past? Burnell, however, strongly emphasises that handling the “climate front” too hesitantly will make achieving the other aforementioned development objectives less likely. In this respect, the issue cannot be an “either or”, but only an “as well as”. Consequently, the central challenge for all political systems is to establish the necessary social consensus for transformation process and to provide the appropriate platforms. Development policy should place an even greater focus on supporting these processes.
Burnell neglects to address two issues in his analysis: Climate change is not gender-neutral, but Burnell’s analysis – like the general debate on climate policy – pays too little attention to the gender perspective (see B. Rodenberg, Climate change mitigation from gender perspectives, DIE Discussion Paper, 21/2009). It is precisely the climate change-democracy building link that necessitates a deeper examination of the constellation of actors and the opportunities and risks for greater gender equality.

The second issue concerns the implications of additional funds, which are expected as a result of a new climate regime, on democratic processes in developing countries. It raises the questions, whether it is possible to channel this capital flow so as to strengthen cooperation between the people, the local levels and the democratic institutions, or does it raise the risk of creating parallel structures that are beyond the reach of general accountability and societal regulation? In this case, neither climate protection nor the building of democratic systems would be addressed.

Ingrid-Gabriela Hove has been working on development policy issues for over 20 years.

This posting is also available in German.

Marianne Kneuer

28. April 2010, Comments (1)

Marianne Kneuer

PD Dr. Marianne Kneuer (M.A. 1989, Dr. phil. 1991, Habilitation 2005) holds an interim professorship for Comparative Politics/Political System of Germany at the Technical University of Darmstadt (Germany). Her main research fields are: democratization, promotion of democracy, European Union and party system research.

Preliminary Remarks

As a scholar of democratization studies being asked to comment the policy paper “Climate Change and Democratisation“, I want to underline that there is still little research done. This implies that an empirical basis is lacking be it in form of analysis in democratization studies or be it in form of polls. Therefore and all the more this paper has to be regarded as a highly valuable contribution to a still neglected issue and the author has to be applauded for his in-depth study and his broad covering of different aspects. In the following I will not present a different view but pick some points in order to discuss them.

About goal conflicts

In the course of the paper, Peter Burnell various times points out to a core problem, namely goal conflicts or what he calls “cruel choice”. While after 1989 democratization – nationally and internationally – had taken a front seat in policy priorities, in the meanwhile the situation has changed and important global priorities are competing for this front seat; not only climate change, but also energy security – two issues which besides are linked – and just recently the financial crisis. The goal conflict not only consists in democratization versus climate change, versus energy security and versus financial crisis but also between climate change mitigation versus energy security and climate change versus financial crisis. This mélange of intersecting goal conflicts firstly makes choices even more complicated and can secondly make a difference in the negotiating position of democratic and non-democratic countries when it comes to bargaining transnational/global agreements. How much pressure will be put on Russia while at the same time gas or oil cutting has to be avoided? And how strong is the position of developed democracies in putting pressure on China regarding mitigation of climate change when it is the second country in wind power capacity in the world (and will be the first in the middle future)?

Goal conflicts are nothing new. The Cold War presented a classical goal conflict: security versus democratization. Maybe it would be interesting to look at this classical constellation in order to extract some theoretical basis for evaluating the present goal conflict analyzed in this paper and to recur to some core findings, what of course cannot be done in this short comment. Just some questions: Are we dealing with the dichotomy of idea (democratization) and interest (climate change mitigation) or with two ideas competing for the higher ethical value? What is then responsible acting? What policy strategies will arise? The frontiers are not as simplistic as in Cold War and in instead of the confrontation and containment the strategies of today are based on cooperation and compromise, albeit not less difficult in achieving results as the Copenhagen Summit proved.

Democracy in distress?

I find it very helpful that Peter Burnell differentiates into three categories of countries: democracies in the developed world, stable non-democracies and emerging democracies and that he analyzes for each group the effects of climate change and the performance in dealing with climate change. The interesting finding of his examination is that there are two main challenges:

First, democracy is challenged inasmuch non-democracies may be as efficient as democracies or even more efficient in climate policy. The race between democratic and non-democratic countries that we had bid a bind farewell after 1989 seems to be back again. The question thus is: Which form of political system is more likely to generate effective approaches in climate policy? On the first glance there are a lot of arguments supporting that democratic countries are in advantage. The second look however, puts some questions marks. Thus democratic principles like dispersion of power (by decentralization and self-administrative entities) can lower efficiency in policy-making or produce tensions between the different governance levels. Future studies could be interested in analyzing possible correlations between better climate policy performance and different models of democratic forms: Which form of democracy is greener? Moreover, autocratic rulers can legitimate limitations of democratic principles and freedom by the need of implementing measures against global warming and by preserving the public order, especially in respect to the possible conflict constellations in their societies (like struggles for control over resources or increasing inequalities). Likewise, autocratic rulers can implement measures in climate change mitigation like building barrages and displacing millions of citizens without caring about protest. In respect to climate change adaption we can observe that the reaction of autocratic rulers depends on the internal pressure they expect and on their perception how to handle internal conflict constellations. Thus during the earth quake in 2009 and the flood catastrophe the Chinese government surprised by a quite “human” approach while it seemed that for the government of Burma human life did not count very much as they preferred to refuse foreign help consciously accepting the negative consequences for the affected population. Finally, the question if western governments would rather prefer a stable and centrally controlled China than a China in democratic transition with unpredictable internal instabilities would be easily answered.

The second interesting finding regarding democracies, autocracies and emerging democracies in the developing world is thus that democracies in the developed world as well as stable and affluent non-democracies are in an advantage. The group of countries in democratic transition and democratizing countries with low development however are confronted with several dilemata, are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change (water scarcity, agriculture) and most affected by the cruel choices. At the same time, weak state capacities and not yet stabilized political infrastructure make it much more difficult to this group of states to implement a consequent climate policy. These findings have consequences for the promotion of democracy by external actors like international organizations and the main national democracy promoters like the USA and the Western democracies.

Promoting democracy or good governance?

Peter Burnell makes an important point in indicating that efficient political and governance institutions are needed for an efficient climate policy which may not be the same thing as the right institutions for liberal democracy improving quality of democracy and distributing power. That means in consequence: The qualities we adhere to the concept of good governance could be more desirable for climate change mitigation than the qualities of liberal democracy. Democratization and good governance with good reason are considered to be a logical twin that belongs together. The context of climate change however may force to some “heretical” questions for scholars in democracy studies: Does democracy really improve good governance and thus guarantee an increasing level of rule of law, anti-corruption fight and sound public policy? Or is it preferable to firstly foster stable governance structures and functioning without explicitly targeting democratization of the structures which would then come maybe easily? Or to put it even more pronounced: Can the good governance be prioritized over democratization?

The author puts his finger even deeper into the wound of democracy promotion in several aspects: Firstly, He insinuates that pushing countries to democratize could end up with stalled transitions, hybrid or instable regimes that will not be able to tackle climate change effects. Secondly, he says that if democracy favors economic development and economic development means increase in CO2 emissions than retarding democratization could be an option. At this point some objections have to be made: As Peter Burnell exposes the correlation between democracy and economic growth that once had been found as quite strong has been out in question by impressive growth rates of non-democracies as well as by democratization processes taking place in low income developing countries. So we should be more carefully in weighting the components of this correlation. A central problem which needs a more interdisciplinary approach from political scientist and climate change experts is the broader and differentiated view on causes of climate change. It is not only and even not primarily about CO2 emissions but also for example about methane and this poses quite different problems, especially in connection with the perspectives of growth of population. Actually we find extraordinary economic growth rates and equally a high rate of population and an extraordinary increasing consumption in China. China with its economic potential implements progressive energy related steps (wind power, water power) which are CO2 neutral, notwithstanding being a hugh methan producer because of the need of rice (China and India produce the half of the total rice production worldwide and the emission of methane doubled in China and India since 1990). Already these points make clear that the equation: democracy = development = emissions does not work.

This certainly does not weaken Peter Burnell’s conclusion that there is a moral dilemma for democracy promoters and that there is a danger that the OECD model of democracy, human rights protection and economic development is increasingly on the defensive. This statement alone is reason to continue research and empirical studies in order to find out more about the connectedness or not of democracy and good governance. Does form follow function? Is good governance really thinkable without democracy? How would it be perceived – by the governments of autocratic states, by the population of the autocratic states – if the relevant democracy promoters decide to first support strong state capacity and only second democracy? What would that mean for the international climate of democratization? What would that mean for the “promotion of autocracy” (Richard Youngs)? On the other side: Could fostering good governance help to achieve both objectives: democratization as well as sound climate policy? Is it an option to work with an incentive-driven approach linking democratization and good governance with some sort of “climate mainstreaming” like gender mainstreaming in human rights promotion? Or would this mean an overload in the portfolio of the emerging democracies?

The international dimension – even more complicated

After considering predominantly the national level, I would like to shortly turn to the international dimension on which – and this is the only critical point to make about this excellent paper – the author could have elaborated more. In the end, tackling the climate change challenge is about crafting global agreements. After the disappointing result of the Copenhagen Summit that could not be included in the paper there remains some sort of helplessness and also impotence how to proceed in order to come to terms. This poses new questions to foreign policy analysis focusing climate change issues. Is there a difference negotiating climate, finance or security agreements? And if yes, what are the differences and why? Is the constraint for cooperation bigger in respect to the survival of international financial and economic international frameworks than in respect to environment? Is it about short-term and long-term thinking? What effects does this mélange of intersecting goal conflicts have on international negotiations? And again: What is idea and what interest in the foreign policy strategies? Taking into account that democracy promotion also is part of foreign policy: How will climate – and again: energy security should be included in this consideration – impact on democracy promotion priorities and strategies?

Konrad Ott

28. April 2010, Comments (1)

Prof. Dr. Konrad Ott, geb.1959, Philosoph, seit 1997 Professor für Umweltethik an der Universität Greifswald. Forschungsschwerpunkte: Umweltethik, Diskursethik, Theorie nachhaltiger Entwicklung, Naturschutzbegründung, Naturschutzgeschichte, ethische Aspekte des Klimawandels, Bioethik.

The paper is written out of the perspective of political science. This perspective is different from policy making and ethics. Political science in its mainstream is about of how to describe and explain political change (in a broad sense). Explanations rest on concepts of causality being specified according to the peculiar features of human action. Therefore, concepts like influence, impacts, factors, response, incentives are crucial. Such concepts can be organized under the general scheme of dependent and independent variables. This conceptual scheme of political science opens an infinite field of inquiry and investigation in both domestic an international affairs. Clearly, it can be applied to the complex relationship in between climate change, climate change policies, economics, stability of governance regimes, and democratisation. To do so, several highly important topics for policy making can be perceived with more analytical rigor compared to intuitions and narrative evidences. The study of Peter Burnell has many merits in this respect.

The ethical perspective is different. It combines some principles by which the intrinsic worth of a full liberal democracy can be established with some other principles by which general objectives and strategies in environmental policy making can be substantiated. Such combination often results in concepts of deliberate environmental democracy, as authors like J. Dryzek or M. Mason have argued for. Such concepts suppose that further democratization can and should occur in full liberal democracies. Moreover, the ethical perspective can be enlarged with respect to climate change. By doing so, general ethical-political concepts as „Contraction and Convergence“ (C&C) or the „Greenhouse Development Rights Framework“ (GDR) are proposed. Quoting Edward Page, Burnell adopts the GDR approach on ethical grounds. I am sceptical whether Burnell has properly understood the core elements and the overall implications of GDR (p. 24/25). At its core, GDR is not about the „North in the South“ problem, but about allocating the burden of both mitigation and adaptation almost completely to the wealthy people on planet Earth while people living below a certain income level have no obligation whatsoever to mitigate emissions. For the purpose of this comment I wish to leave aside any debate on the merits and shortcomings on C&C and GDR (see Ott & Kraus 2009) and will focus on the scope and outcome of Burnell’s paper.

Any political scientists can blame ethicists for combining principles in such way (for instance: deliberate environmental democracy in conjunction with C&C) since such wishful climate friendly eco-democracy“ looks fine in moral philosophy but might be ignorant against the many conflicts that will occur under real world conditions. As political scientist, Burnell is entitled to abstract away the „more imaginary forms of democracy“ (p. 36) which are still „largely on the drawing board“ (ibid.). Of course, such types of democracy must be established before their performance can be „tested“ empirically. Burnell is right arguing that such concepts of, say, deliberative environmental democracy must overcome their own „decentralization bias“ in order to address global issues as climate change. I completely agree with Burnell that climate change policies can’t wait for the final triumph of such types of democracy that suppose further democratisation within full liberal democracies. I will not go into some problems whether some countries are classified properly. To my, Saudi-Arabia is not a non-liberal democracy (p. 23), but I leave such single topics aside. Reasoning about single states as Kenya, Vietnam, Kyrgistan etc. is misleading.

Burnell is right in claiming that, probably, one can’t have it all: stable and full liberal democracy, further democratisation of electorate democracy or semi-authoritarian regimes, good outcomes of stable governance structures, pro-poor economic development, strong mitigation, sound adaptation that cares especially for vulnerable groups, the emergence of a strong post-Kyoto regime, and the like. He is right in emphasizing conflicts, dilemmas, cruel choices, and the like. By doing so, he is on the edge between political science and ethics. On the one hand, it is a scientific question of how different societies are going to resolve such conflicts (or cope with them) while on the other hand he asked how such conflicts should be resolved. The last question is not about matters of facts but about well-justified priorities and, thus, ultimately an ethical question. Most of the „coordination question“ and some of the „political question“ (p 41/42) are normative ones. Before turning to some ethical problems in more detail, I wish to address more scientific questions.

The questions being stated on p. 7 are of paramount importance for both political scientists and ethicists. Indeed, it would be good or even vital to know how these mutual relationships are to be determined. But can there be robust knowledge at all? If the question is a very broad one, analytical rigor comes at a price. This is true a fortiori for the big global picture of roughly 190 national states being confronted with the impacts of climate change and being challenged and forced to make some mitigation and adaptation policies. The higher the scientific rigor is, the less clear (the more inconclusive) are the outcomes. Burnell seems to be well aware of this relationship. To give just one example: One should distinguish between the effects (impacts) that climate change in itself may have on democratisation (or political stability), and the impacts of climate change policies on democratisation (or political stability). The political impacts of adaptation policies on political regimes can only be guessed. This is true also for the impacts of domestic climate refugees on different political regimes. If one adds economic performance of single countries to this big picture having both impacts on democracy and mitigation, the results of Burnell’s study are, in terms of scientific outcome, meagre. The answers being presented on p. 40 are „very broad generalizations, worded in heavily qualified ways“ (p. 40). This result is not surprising. It rather would have been a surprise to me, if results would have been more specific.

Given the definition of „democratization“ as a movement toward full liberal democracy occurring within all other regimes, including autocratic ones, and given all the caveats (p. 15), it seems clear that democratization in itself does not necessarily make it easier but can make it more difficult for states to engage with climate mitigation. Given the premises, the conclusion can be inferred without many empirical amendments. The same holds for the relation between democratisation and adaptation. The answers being given always entail „can“, „might“, „may“, „could“ and can be, of course, hardly refuted or falsified. The answers being given on p. 40 are clearly not false but come close to some conceptual truisms. The same holds for the two sets of implications being presented on p. 39. Nobody doubts that there is no silver bullet (p. 43). Most of us will agree that many economic factors „in total“ influence GHG emissions more than political structures (p. 30).

All in all, Burnell does not reach robust explanatory „scientific“ knowledge which might be used for reliable predictions, but he presents hypothetical reasoning with a high degree of uncertainty – and he can’t be blamed for doing so. The evidence base is a moving target. Whoever could argue with confidence what kind of impacts climate change or international adaptation policies will have on the process of democratization in, say, Nepal after the end of monarchy? I can also agree that the general rule saying that the overall environmental performance of full liberal (parliamentarian) democracies is better than those of other regimes may have the exception of GHG-emissions. The Environmental-Kuznets-Curve (EKC) may be a correct model for most environmental pollutants but my not apply for GHG. But it might also be the case that in the end EKC turns out the correct model for GHG, too.

Facing all those remaining epistemic uncertainties, ethicists feel permitted to point to some traditions. Immanuel Kant argued that lack of empirical knowledge can make moral commitments even stronger. Hans Jonas argued that precaution should be taken more seriously if foresight is restricted. The obligations to engage in favour of both strong mitigation and prudent mitigation are by no means refuted by Burnell’s paper. I do not agree with some of Burnell’s suggestions that long-term mitigation may infringe the basic structure of full liberal democracies. Some neoliberals see even taxes and legal standards as bureaucratic attacks against individual liberties (economic profit), but this ideological rhetoric should not be taken seriously any more.

At its end, Burnell’s paper touches important ethical and political topics. To my mind, it seems better to debate on only one question in more detail than to address many questions superficially. To my mind, one crucial message of Burnell’s paper is the claim that democratisation is a hazardous, risky enterprise with uncertain outcomes with respect to both mitigation and adaptation. In principle, democratisation can „help and hinder“ climate policies (p. 11). Moreover, democratisation of electorate democracies can result in situation from which even a backlash into autocratic systems is possible.

Good governance and democracy are not the same (p. 33) and therefore it remains an open question whether democratization improves governance. The shift from a semi-autocratic or authoritarian regime towards an electorate democracy can also weaken governance structures. Newly emerging democracies can be fragile ones. Given the premise that democratization can turn a stable non-democratic (semi-authoritarian) system into a fragile one or can destabilize electorate democracies, there could be another cruel choice looming. Stable governance structures are a functional requirement for long-term strategies of mitigation and for adaptation. Any international adaptation funding mechanism supposes governmental structures that spend the money for proper objectives. Mitigation may require stable taxation systems, and the like.

One can even imagine political situations in which the destabilizing impacts of climate change (p. 20) and hazardous ways of democratization meet each other. The worst case might be a compound failure, namely a failure of fragile democracies and a failure of both mitigation and adaptation. Such deeply troubling situations would be water on the mills of the proponents of geopolitics, securitization, and geoengineering.
„Strengthening state capacity and improving governance may (!) be more important for goals of climate adaptation and improving human security“ (p. 37). More important than what? The answer is clear: More important than democratization under all conditions. Ironically, Burnell hands one cruel dilemmatic choice over to us Western supporters of both democracy and climate change policies. But what about the qualifiers in this pattern of reasoning: if „unrealistic“ or could even prove „disruptive“. How much prudence or foresight is needed to assess ongoing processes of democratisation? Many of the coordination and political questions (p. 41) are aspects of this cruel choice.

Probably, we can not escape such choices and questions by making or concepts of deliberative eco-democracy even more attractive. Nevertheless, ethical reasoning has two songlines with respect to moral dilemmas. The first songline takes dilemmas as occurring and searches for solutions. The second songline argues that it is our primary task to consider how dilemmas can be avoided if they are not occurring yet but looming in some future. How a Jewish mother should act if she can rescue only one of her two kids from the Nazi’s, is one of many paradigm cases in moral reasoning under dilemmatic conditions. How people should act to prevent such kinds of situation is another question. Taking Burnell’s cruel choice as real danger, we should imagine how we could prevent such situations.

Klemens van de Sand

28. April 2010, Comments (1)

Dr. Klemens van de Sand worked until the end of 2007 at the BMZ, where he last served as the Deputy Director for the Asia and south-eastern Europe department. Before that, he dealt with issues such as development policy, donor coordination and human rights. From 1997 to 2003, he was Assistant President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome. In the nineties, he led the OECD/DAC Working Group “Participatory Development and Good Governance”. Currently, he is a board member of German Watch and on the advisory boards of several other organisations, including the Development and Peace Foundation and the Forum Civil Peace Service.

The well-written paper impresses through many valid observations and balanced judgements. Nevertheless, at least the first four chapters leave the reader somewhat at a loss as to concrete consequences for possible policy measures at international and national level. This “shortcoming”, however, appears to be largely inevitable, as it is one of the paper’s merits that the author time and again – and quite rightly – cautions against rash generalizations and emphasizes the need to differentiate according to the specificities of the problems in their respective political, economic and socio-cultural context.

Almost all statements and arguments put forward in the first three chapters can, in my view, hardly be disputed. There are only a few aspects which might deserve further consideration:

  1. “New cruel choice” between economic development and climate mitigation (p. 17,18): The win-win argument for mitigation in the form of investments in renewable energies and energy efficiency is not mentioned here nor elsewhere. It should, because it is certainly valid in developed countries, but also relevant for developing countries, especially for emerging economies., and it, therefore, at least eases the “cruel choice”.
  2. “Domestic impact of steps to reduce emissions” (p. 22, para 1): The assumption that the impact is “much greater” in weaker states than e.g. in the EU should be illustrated.
  3. “Democracies more likely to reach international agreements” (p. 24, para 2): Without knowing the research work referred to, I have some doubts. What about US, India, Australia in Kyoto and Copenhagen?
  4. Efforts to reduce CO2 emissions – effect of domestic inequalities (p. 25, Para 3): Not necessarily true e.g. for replacing fuel wood by (decentralized) solar/wind/biogas energy – which can benefit the rural poor in particular.

As to “practical” implications for international actors and governments, chapters 4-6 are, of course, the most interesting, but also more disputable.

  1. “Moral dilemma for democracy’s supporters” (p. 37, para 2,3): Climate adaptation requires not only “strengthening state capacity and improving governance”, but also active participation (“ownership”) of affected or vulnerable people (and their organisations!), which promotes democratization. Take the example of watershed development, which is an extremely important instrument both to fight poverty and to adapt to climate change, e.g. in vast parts of India, but also in a number of African and Latin-American countries. There is ample evidence that sustainable success of watershed management programs hinges on people organizing themselves and becoming self-responsible implementers, instead of leaving the task to government agencies. Here, we have a win-win situation between development, climate adaptation and democratization which should be referred to also elsewhere in the paper. The point on “cruel choice” again appears to be not really compelling. It is not an “either” (promoting democracy) “or” (supporting climate mitigation and adaptation). The challenge is rather to promote democracy in an adequate way which takes into account the overriding importance of climate related policies, for example by stimulating discussions and building the capacities of various actors to engage in an informed, equitable dialogue about policy options vis-à-vis climate change. With other words, promoting democratization must not be given up, but the way may need to be changed (more cautious, less aggressive, more inclusive…).
  2. “No mainstreaming of climate adaptation in development activities” (p. 38, para 3): There is increasing awareness of the need to take into account climate adaptation as a cross-cutting issue in development cooperation, at least in German development agencies. The “Asia Concept” of the BMZ specifically calls for mainstreaming of climate mitigation and adaptation in development cooperation.
  3. “Linking offers of support to political concessions” (p. 38, para 3): The new arrangements (“Direct Access”) envisaged for the UNFCCC related Adaptation Fund, may lead to innovative advancements with regard to accountability, transparency, people’s participation, ownership etc.. This (still emerging) Funding Mechanism should definitely receive particular attention in the paper, not least because it could offer some answers to the last question (p. 42).
  4. The author may consider to deal with the debate on ways out of the growth crisis (see e.g. C. Jaeger, G. Horn, T. Lux: “Wege aus der Wachstumskrise”, a study recently published by the European Climate Forum).

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