Climate change is an ever hotter political issue in democracies around the world. It impacts power structures and industries, linking up with fundamental political debates about such topics as development and justice, individual interests vs. the common good, or short vs. long term benefits.
In these important debates, you can have your say as a voter and can choose to make climate change a part of your political decisions. In this way, you can force politicians to deal with the issue and develop policies.
Here are some examples from different countries to show how important this is:
In the US, for instance, the Republican party – representing just under half the voters – has no real climate change policy. The topic is downplayed and viewed through an immobile, ideological prism. The fact of climate change is often denied (as if reality is subject to approval). The result is that there is no inter-party political debate about what would be the best way to deal with this challenge. It is left to the Democrats. That is ludicrous, because climate change is not a partisan issue. There are many and complicated economic, social and environmental trade-offs to be made. On these there should be a Republican view (refer).
Another example is Australia. Here, as in the US, climate change polarises politics, offering a stark choice to voters. Under the Labour government (2007-2013) Australia initiated some of the most progressive climate change policies, including a carbon tax and a strong solar scheme. When Tony Abbott’s Liberal government came to power in 2013, it reversed these policies and instead focused on building up coal mining for export. Literally overnight, Australia, shifted from being a leader in the global climate debate to being a climate change “villain”.
Germany is a different case: here, climate change is top of the agenda for almost every political party and the country has been a pioneer in driving renewable energy and energy efficiency policies (what is called the “Energiewende”). However, there are severe inconsistencies in Germany’s energy and climate strategy. For instance, as the share of subsidised renewables rose, it priced gas-fired power out of the wholesale market. Instead, the country turned to burning large amounts of cheap, but highly polluting and carbon intensive lignite. Voters have not taken the government to task on that.
In India, the political debate is slightly different. Development (meaning more energy, infrastructure, industry and growth) easily trumps climate change as a political topic. In fact, India so far had a purely defensive climate position: secure own “carbon space” and a “right to emit”, while demanding cuts and financial aid from developed countries. While this approach is probably just, it has also been quite ineffective from a climate change point view. Given the facts that India is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change (and also already the third largest emitter), that China and the US are changing tracks to seek more cooperation on climate change, and that energy efficiency and renewables make great sense for India from an economic point of view (and India has very ambitious policies), the country could now place climate change higher on its agenda and develop a more engaging approach (refer).
In every country, there are very specific political decisions that have a large impact on climate change. As a voter, you can make these your business. And, if that is not enough for you (or if you don’t live in a democratic country), you can become an activist: demonstrate, innovate, educate. Making your voice heard on social media is a great start.