Environmental democracy is a process involving citizens in environmental management processes. As such, it aims to spark a mutual commitment between citizens and their governments on sustainable resource utilization.
This process helps citizens understand the environmental degradation from various actions thus promote the conservation of various ecosystems. Unfortunately, some countries ignore the need for accountability, transparency and citizen engagement in managing natural resources.
Here, we cover the best and worst countries for environmental democracy and their current conditions. This helps gauge the impact of acknowledging the role of citizens in resource management and environment maintenance.
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The top three countries for environmental democracy are Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia and Russia. The governing environmental laws were enacted in the early 1990s as part of democratization reforms.
These reforms provided for citizens to access information and participate in environmental legislations.
Although these countries are ranked top in environmental democracy, they are far from the ideal image of environmental democracy. Often, countries rank top on the list because of the presence of the laws on paper, and suffer poor execution, owing to corruption.
Lithuania and Latvia rank higher than Russia as there is more transparency in matters relating to access to information by its citizens. This is owing to the renewed legislation in Lithuania on its amendments to laws on natural protection and Latvia’s environmental protection laws.
As observed, the strength of environmental democracy is barely dependent on the wealth of a state. For instance, wealthier countries like Panama and Cuba rank lower in the list, whereas lower-ranking countries like South Africa rank higher.
Cuba ranks among the top countries in the revenue created from tourism. However, the government withholds much secrecy and thus are not transparent and accountable to their citizens.
Among the best countries for environmental democracy, Slovenia ranks top on the list. The fruits of environmental democracy are best seen in Slovenia where they rank top in the conservation of natural resources.
Haiti, Malaysia and Namibia rank among the poorest countries in terms of public engagement in natural resources planning. Besides lacking the laws which provide for public participation, some withhold information from the public, thus leaving environmental planning purely to national agencies.
Owing to the lack of cooperation between the government and its citizens, natural resources are overused without considering the benefits and risks they pose for the citizens.
In many of these low-ranking states, the government is the supreme body in environmental management. A testament to the degradation resulting from environmental dictatorship is the high levels of air pollution, groundwater depletion, loss of biodiversity and poor dumping.
Owing to the poor access to information, officials push the agenda without fearing backlash from their citizens thus upsetting natural ecosystems.
To curb climate change, there are multiple steps required by various governments. Among these initiatives, environmental democracy shows the most promise for change.
By involving its citizens, the government can put in place better laws and prevent leaders from undertaking harmful practices. The transparency will make it harder for corruption to thrive thus protecting natural resources and ensuring sustainable development.
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