Undergraduate Journal of Global Citizenship


The United States of America led the world in environmental policy throughout the 20thcentury but recently has relinquished its position as a global leader in international environmental policy, while China, the world’s leader in air pollution, is swiftly becoming the global leader in installing wind, water, and solar energy. Consequentially, this raises the question, do democratic nations lack the willingness and/or ability to enact swift and effective domestic and international environmental policy? First, the paper examines the United States of America as a proxy for both a democratic nation that at times has acted as a global leader in environmental protection and in other times has been unable to agree on an appropriate course of action due to complicated democratic procedures and bipartisanism. Second, this paper examines the foundational aspects that encompass U.S. democracy in order to understand what allowed the U.S to lead in international environmental policy throughout late 20thcentury while also noting that the U.S. government is a unique democratic system. Third, this paper examines the ability and willingness of China’s authoritarian regime to formulate and implement swift environmental policies in recent years, while also noting that china’s governing system is also unique and not representative of all non-democratic nations. Finally, this paper assesses the potential advantages and disadvantages of democratic and authoritarian governments in addressing domestic and global environmental issues. Specifically, this paper will focus on environmental public policy geared towards climate change, greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, and renewable energy. Furthermore, this paper contends that China’s shift towards sustainable development will act as an avenue for increased international dominance and stability, while the U.S.’s recent environmental policies, or lack thereof, damages the perception of the U. S as a cooperative, progressive leader on the global stage.



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