Climate Crisis and the Limits of Liberal Democracy? Germany, Australia and India Compared

  • James Goodman
  • Tom Morton


Climate crisis poses an existential challenge to global governance and to democracy. There is clearly a ‘democratic deficit’ in climate governance, where democratic representation ends at national borders. At climate negotiations, national liberal democracies are locked into beggar-thy-neighbour territoriality that condemns climate governance to ineffectiveness. More fundamentally though, failures in climate governance and indeed climate change itself expose a systemic failure in liberal democracy. A model of democracy that thrives at the expense of future generations, and at the expense of those currently vulnerable to climate change, is clearly a flawed democracy. If climate change exposes the territorial limits of liberal democracy, at the national level it has also exposed the systemic limitations of global climate governance. Accordingly, this chapter seeks a diagnosis of climate governance failure through an account of climate policy in liberal democracies. One explanation of this failure may be found in the evident failure of liberal democracies and the wider economic pressures on governments that produce policy failure. Liberal democracy itself is positioned as the key barrier to effective climate governance, and climate change is interpreted as prefiguring alternative forms of democratic engagement. This chapter focuses upon how elected governments in India, Germany and Australia have failed to respond to climate change and the extent to which these failures translate into a crisis of political legitimacy.


Clean Development Mechanism Climate Policy Brown Coal Liberal Democracy United Nations Development Programme 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© James Goodman and Tom Morton 2014

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  • James Goodman
  • Tom Morton

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