Do Green Democracies really exist?

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Delving into environmental practices, take advantage of current technological development and enact laws in favor of the environment is a duty of each country

Do Green Democracies really exist?

Right now, issues such as climate change, green technologies and renewable energies seem to gain more and more ground not only in the media, but in practical actions, which reflects -at least in appearance- a particular advance in the consciousness of human beings about the reciprocal and harmonious relationship we must have with nature and the whole planet.

Leer en español: ¿Existen las Democracias Verdes?

It is not for less. The modern world, the one we know thanks to the industrial revolution and its impact on the significant increase in mass production of goods and services, thus raising the well-being of the population, has its dark side.

The inexorable growth to which all the economies of the world are necessarily subject, demands more and more resources, which implies -following the trend and current social relations- not only the future exhaustion of these but the actual pollution of oceans with entire islands of plastics, the erosion of fertile soils for agriculture, the depletion of freshwater sources destined for human consumption, as well as the increase in the temperature of the earth due to the greenhouse effect.

Faced with this reality, actions have been developed aimed at regulating and mitigating the impact of social metabolism on nature. The Kyoto Protocol or the Paris Agreement are examples of global scope (in spite of certain non-signatory countries). However, each country develops particular legislation in this matter, which means that the most outstanding can be classified as the greenest (ecologically friendly).

Also read: Fourth UN assembly on the environment: what you should know

Index of Environmental Democracy

In this sense, we will see the countries with the best ecological "democracy." We rely on the Environmental Democracy Index, which is based fundamentally on three measurement parameters: 1) the right to free access to information on environmental issues and problems, 2) the right to participate meaningfully in decision-making, and 3) the right to promote the application of environmental laws or compensation for damage.

The first 5 countries are European: Lithuania, Latvia, USA, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, and precisely in that order, they head the ranking with the highest rates. It should be noted that this study only reflects the enactment of laws aimed at environmental protection, but not the application of them or their effects on the environment itself. In addition to this, the study only addresses 70 countries, excluding the most important Western Europe and the Scandinavian countries; for this reason the Latin American countries, which are included in their entirety, appear in essential positions in the ranking: Panama in # 9, Colombia # 10, Ecuador # 12, Peru # 13, Brazil # 15, Mexico # 19 #, Chile # 24, Argentina # 25 and Venezuela # 35. On the opposite side, the worst in the ranking are Sri Lanka, the Congo, Namibia, Malaysia, and Haiti, occupying the positions of # 65 to # 70 respectively.

Can one be green from underdevelopment?

As expected, the countries with the worst performance are those with widespread poverty (with the exception of Malaysia), which leads us to the necessary discussion of how it is possible for a technologically backward country, which is in the saga of many economic indicators, social and political can have sufficient institutional development or material conditions to develop practices and legislation in favor of the environment, when competition in the world market devours them.

In fact, one of the arguments used by China not to subscribe to the Kyoto Protocol at the time was that, being an emerging country, it required all the necessary incentives to grow, so that specific laws or regulations in favor of the environment could serve obstacle and discourage (as they do) investments and therefore economic growth.

According to an OECD study, environmental policies can affect the global value chain, which means that large multinational companies can fragment their production processes and transfer the most polluting links to countries with looser environmental legislation which is known as the Pollution Shelter Hypothesis. Since the 1990s, countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States have hardened their environmental policies, making them increasingly stringent and impacting their production costs.

On the other side of the coin, there are the BRICs, whose policies are much more lenient, that is, less protective of the environment. Therefore, the latter and all those considered "emerging" countries become recipients of investment from the links of production that require more permissive environmental policies.

In summary, we can say that environmental practices, which lead to greater green democracy, should not be analyzed in isolation but should take into account the material conditions of each country. Of course, that this should not be a justification for practices contrary to nature, on the contrary, efforts should be redoubled to reach levels of technological development according to current events through a symbiotic relationship with our planet.


LatinAmerican Post | Luis Alberto Lozada

Translated from "¿Existen las Democracias Verdes?"