The theoretical debate on democracy—environment remains contentious in the environmental politics literature. The existing empirical studies have attempted to explore the effect of democracy on environmental degradation. However, there are limitations in these studies regarding how democracy was measured. Also, the prior empirical studies have been silent on how democracy moderates the effect of economic growth and energy consumption on the environment. In this study, we employed dynamic and static econometric techniques to explore the effect of democracy on the environment using comprehensive data for 46 sub-Saharan African countries (SSA). As institutionalised democracy is a multi-faceted concept, we follow the political science literature to use high-level democracy indices such as electoral, liberal, participatory, deliberative, and egalitarian democracy to examine their respective effect on environmental degradation. Using the dynamic system-GMM and Lewbel two-stage least squares technique to control endogeneity, our empirical results indicate that the high-level democracy indicators drive CO2 emissions in SSA. We also observed that the high-level democracy indicators moderate GDP per capita to reduce CO2 emissions in SSA. The regional analysis reveals that the high-level democracy indicators spur CO2 emissions in West Africa while reducing CO2 emissions in Southern and Central-Eastern Africa. Further, the high-level democracy indicators moderate GDP per capita to reduce CO2 emissions in West Africa while increasing CO2 emissions in Southern and Central-Eastern Africa. The findings also indicate that the high-level democracy indicators moderate energy consumption to increase CO2 emissions in West Africa and Central-Eastern Africa, not SSA and Southern Africa. These results are robust to using ecological footprint as a broader measure of environmental degradation. The policy implications of these findings for SSA and the sub-regions are discussed.