National climate 'citizen's assembly' opens

| 22nd January 2020
Some 110 people meet in Birmingham over four weekends for Climate Assembly UK to learn from experts about climate change.

This citizens' assembly will provide our government and our Parliament with really high quality information about the public's preferences for how we get to net zero. 

People from across the country with a range of views on climate change will gather this weekend for a citizens' assembly on how to cut emissions to net zero.

The first UK-wide citizens' assembly on climate change, commissioned by six parliamentary select committees, is being asked to examine how the UK meets its legal target to cut greenhouse gases to zero overall by mid century.

Some 110 people will meet in Birmingham over four weekends, beginning this weekend, for Climate Assembly UK to learn from experts about climate change, and discuss and make informed decisions on options for meeting the net zero goal.

Consumption

They have been drawn from more than 1,800 people who responded to 30,000 invitations sent out to UK households selected at random and are representative of the UK population in age, gender, ethnicity, education and where they live.

They are also representative of the country in terms of how concerned they are about climate change, with three people not at all concerned, 16 not very concerned, 36 fairly concerned, 54 very concerned, and one who did not know, organisers said.

The £520,000 scheme has been funded through £120,000 from the select committees' research budgets and two philanthropic foundations - the Esme Fairburn Foundation and the European Climate Foundation - which have had no input into the working of the assembly.

It is hoped the recommendations made by the assembly, which will be published in a report in April, will help inform Parliament and Government on policies to reach net zero.

The group will look at areas such as buildings, transport and consumption of goods, and give their views on a range of options presented to them for tackling climate change.

Denied

Sarah Allan, head of engagement with Involve, which is running the assembly along with the Sortition Foundation and mySociety, said the participants would find the experience fun and would successfully come to conclusions on the issues.

"What this citizens' assembly will do is provide our government and our Parliament with really high quality information about the public's preferences for how we get to net zero," she said.

Quizzed on whether it was appropriate to include people who might be climate sceptics or not concerned about the issue, she said: "It's really important it's representative of the UK population.

"Those people, just because they're sceptical of climate change, they're going to be affected by the steps the Government takes to get to net zero by 2050 too and they shouldn't have their voice denied in that."

Leading

Four expert leads have been working with advisory and academic panels to make sure the Climate Assembly UK is balanced, accurate and comprehensive, and, to engage as many people as possible, documents will be published and presentations by experts and advocates will be live-streamed, organisers said.

Full names and details of members of the assembly are not being published.

One participant, Marc, 46, from Newcastle, said: "I felt like I'd won the lottery when I got the letter. I'd be daft not to do it - it's amazing to get the chance to have a say and influence what may happen in the future.

"I was in the army for 22 years so I've not got a problem meeting new people and learning new things, I'm really looking forward to it. I hope Britain can take a leading role with making the changes we need to secure our future."

This Author

Emily Beament is the PA environment correspondent.

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