Why democracy is a climate matter

Democracy holds solutions for an inclusive just transition to a green and sustainable economy.

Building sustainable societies for everyone

Inequalities are growing globally and are made worse by resource scarcity and impacts of climate change.
To prevent conflict within and between societies, different groups need to reconcile their present needs and their wishes for the future. 

Democratic societies have the greatest potential to meet this challenge because they give everybody a voice about how we want to live and how we should allocate resources to get there.

At the same time, existing democracies need to transform to pave the way for sustainable development. They must think beyond short-term economic growth and electoral cycles to account for planetary boundaries and the time lag built into the Earth system. Best practice examples already exist: In Wales for example, the “Well-Being of Future Generations Act” has made it a statutory duty for every council to take a long-term view in their decision-making and consider the needs of future generations.

In the context of climate change, the decarbonisation of global economies takes centre stage. Done correctly, that is with an eye on inclusive and just transitions, decarbonisation can uplift regions and economies. Done badly, it can exacerbate existing inequalities or create new ones. To foster equitable transitions, philanthropists should focus on flashpoints where the poor and working class stand to be negatively affected by the green transition, from the decommissioning of coal mines or power plants, to the implementation of fuel levies and taxes.

At the same time, fighting polarisation and populism also needs to be considered. Simplistic arguments and policy solutions offered by populist leaders prevent stakeholders across party lines in building the consensus necessary to drive the reforms needed to tackle the climate crisis. At a time where communities, parties and countries desperately need to come together, populism seeks to divide.

  • Future Earth, Our Future on Earth 2020, p. 32

Funding Example


350.org is an international grassroots organisation building an international movement for an end of fossil fuels.

Project example:  350.org is supporting activities and change-makers on the ground with strategies, resources, and capacity building. Among others, they support two coal resistance movements in Bangladesh with global activism and training for grassroots activists on digital storytelling

Issues Energy, financial markets
Regions Globally
Lever Grassroots activism, campaigning, political advocacy


Case Studies

  • Robert Bosch Stiftung

One of the major foundations in Europe that are associated with a private corporation, the Robert Bosch Stiftung develops exemplary solutions for social and societal issues in the fields of Education, Active Citizenship, Health, International Understanding and Cooperation, including Climate Change, and Science and Research.

  • Schöpflin Stiftung

Committed to creating a lively democracy, the Schöpflin Stiftung follows a venture philanthropy approach in the fields of ‘Flight & Integration’, ‘Non-profit Journalism’, ‘Economy & Democracy’, and ‘Schools & Development’. The foundation is currently exploring ways of how to firmly integrate climate change into their work.

  • Germanwatch

Germanwatch actively promotes North-South equity and the preservation of livelihoods. The development and environmental NGO uses science-based analyses to inform and educate the public, and to advocate for a political, economic and social framework which can ensure a future for the people of the South.