The Climate Crisis and Democratic Reform

Lead Research Organisation: University of Essex
Department Name: Essex Business School


The ongoing threat of the climate crisis poses significant challenges to democratic forms of governance. Responding to the need for immediate action would require swift policy adaptation from governments on a regional, national and international scale. However, democratic governments across the globe have struggled to respond with adequate policies that would prevent global warming above 1.5 degrees celsius as recommended by the IPCC. Scholars have identified several interconnected processes that have hitherto prevented strong action: the influence of fossil fuel corporations on the policy-making process, the short-term orientation of electoral politics, the polarised nature of public debate, the role of representative institutions and the ways in which expert and scientific evidence are used to justify decision-making. Our response to these issues requires further collaboration across disciplinary boundaries to grasp the full implications of the nature of the challenge in the field of democratic governance.

The Climate Crisis and Democratic Reform Network will establish an international group of academic and non-academic experts to pursue new lines of inquiry into how climate change is impacting democratic governance and which reforms are necessary to adequately respond to this emerging challenge. This involves interdisciplinary collaboration across political philosophy, law, democratic theory, environmental politics and energy policy. The aim of the network is to produce a theoretically rigorous understanding of democracy in an age of climate crisis and to examine institutional designs that could reform how democracy operates. The network will develop novel justifications for the value of democracy in light of the climate emergency to strengthen commitments to democratic forms of government when faced with these new challenges. The network has the further goal of building relationships between academics and civil society groups. It will provide opportunities for new connections to be formed between different communities of scholars and practitioners that will enable knowledge exchange to take place on the issues of climate change and democratic reform.


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