Environmental Commitments in Different Types of Democracies: The Role of Liberal, Social-liberal, and Deliberative Politics
63 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2021 Last revised: 25 Mar 2021
Date Written: March 1, 2021
Ever since the recognition of ongoing, human-induced, large-scale environmental degradation, from the early 1960s onwards, the scholarly community has looked at democracy with mixed feelings. Some assert, quite openly, that democracy is devastating for the environmental performance of countries, some claim the opposite, while yet other scholars suggest that democratic models other than liberal democracy may offer a route forwards, towards a sustainable society. Both political theorists and empirical social scientists add fuel to this debate, and neither side has of yet settled the argument. For obvious reasons, political theorists typically lack empirical evidence for most of their assertions as to whether democracy per se, or different variants of democracy, are more or less pro-environmental. In parallel, empirically oriented scholarship has been impaired with poor data, often obstructing them from properly evaluating democracy’s actual environmental pros and cons. In this paper we make use of recently collected unique data, enabling us to better address both these literatures. Using the data gathered by the Varieties of Democracy project on different conceptions of democracy, we empirically test whether different features of democracy, such as liberal in its thinner understanding, social- liberal, and deliberative, are beneficial for countries’ commitment to environmental improvements. In particular, we investigate which of these distinct features make democracies more prone to deliver environmental policy outputs, i.e., adopt climate laws, develop stricter environmental policies and incorporate sustainability into economic policies.
Keywords: democracy, autocracy, environmental commitments, liberal, social-liberal, deliberative
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