What’s Going On Here?
Last weekend, the first of four ‘citizens’ assemblies’ on climate change was hosted in Birmingham.
What Does This Mean?
What is a Citizens’ Assembly?
The assembly is made up of 110 ‘ordinary’ citizens selected to represent a broad spectrum of UK society. With diverse ages, ethnicities, geographies and views regarding the climate emergency, the assembly will offer their opinion on the best way for the UK to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
This is the first national citizens’ assembly for the UK, although the concept has been employed in other local government issues and in other countries worldwide.
What will actually be happening in these assemblies?
Each assembly involves talks and presentations from leading experts on how climate change, and climate action, will impact policy and the running of the UK now and in the future. The first assembly featured a welcoming presentation from the beloved Sir Davey A – so expect the line-up to include the ‘creme de la creme’ of environmental experts!
Following this, members are encouraged to ask anything they wish before debating and then the assembly’s conclusions will be written up into a report that is then presented to the ‘decision-makers’.
Why Should We Care?
The Citizens’ Climate Assembly is a genuine attempt to bring public opinion into the political decision-making process – but is it the right approach? Time will tell, but it can’t be the only measure taken to solve our ever worsening climate crisis.
But is it enough?
The assembly is specifically to allow public opinion on achieving net-zero in the UK, and will not debate whether climate change is an emergency, or if the net zero target is ambitious enough. This has been criticised by leading climate figures who are demanding more urgent action e.g. net zero by 2030.
Furthermore, the recommendations made by the assembly aren’t legally binding so there is no guarantee that they will be taken on by the UK government. Some are quite skeptical as to whether the strategy is an effective method of bringing public opinion into UK policy. Citizen assemblies were used in Ireland, but only two recommendations were then implemented by the Irish government, with many more slipping under the radar. However, the assembly did help to overturn Ireland’s abortion ban…proving it can be effective!
- Follow the progress of the four assembly meetings in Birmingham on their website and through various media channels.
- Find out more about the concept of Citizens’ Assemblies and see what you think of them – is it something we should see more of?
- Use your own voice!! You may not have been one of the lucky members of the public to participate in the UK’s first assembly, but that doesn’t mean your voice isn’t powerful! Talk/write to your MP, support action groups whose values and opinions reflect your own and join protests to show those in power what is important to you!