A national citizens' assembly on climate change ran in Spain from November 2021 to May 2022. One hundred randomly selected citizens, as a reflection of society, deliberated in five online sessions on the question "A safer Spain in the face of climate change - how do we do it?". On 6 June 2022, the resulting 172 recommendations were handed over to Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Vice Prime Minister Teresa Ribera.
The recommendations are organised by goals and divided into five areas of life and society: Consumption, Food and Land Use, Work, Community, Health and Care, and Ecosystems. Citizens' Assembly participants explained the key recommendations for each area.
Change production models
These include the need to change production models in the food industry, for example, to promote the Mediterranean diet, the urgency to preserve and restore the country's most important ecosystems and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport, and the importance of developing a consumption model that is compatible with the planet's limits.
Proposals include the introduction of an energy supply system with "public control", the "minimisation" of domestic flights in Spain "when train alternatives exist", or the adoption of a state pact to ensure a long-term climate policy. The assembly participants also recommend "raising awareness of the concept of degrowth". This involves, among other things, "regulating advertising and messages promoting consumption by making the impact of consumption on climate change visible".
"Only a first step"
In the transport sector, the assembly participants propose to promote zero-emission freight transport systems, to support cycling as a means of transport and to convert lorries to electric propulsion. Cycle paths should be built at the urban and interurban level. Rail and water transport should be improved, including freight transport on these modes. In formulating their recommendations, the Citizens' Assembly members were advised by numerous experts.
"This is just a first step, the beginning of something that we hope will have a big impact and reach not only the government but the whole society," said the twelve Citizens' Assembly representatives present when presenting their recommendations.
Environmental Award for Citizens' Assembly
A few hours before the presentation of the recommendations, the Citizens' Assembly had received from Vice-President Teresa Ribera the extraordinary Environmental Award for Climate Action and Civic Engagement, awarded by the Ministry of Ecological Change and the Demographic Challenge. Ribera emphasised the role of citizens in the face of the climate emergency and their ability to come up with unanimous proposals for a more just and secure Spain in the face of climate change.
The handover of the recommendations to the government is the culmination of eight months of work and deliberation, which concluded on 22 May 2022 with the adoption of the 172 proposals. The work of the Citizens' Assembly was divided into five online discussion sessions and one face-to-face session held in Madrid, going through three phases: an initial learning phase, a second consultative phase and a third phase in which proposals were drafted.
"Bringing dialogue on climate change to the citizens"
For assembly participant Eduardo Martín, what was most important in this exercise in civic participation and collective intelligence was "bringing the dialogue on climate change to the citizens". This is normally the domain of experts, but society as a whole is invited to participate in ecological change.
The Extremaduran believes that many of the measures adopted by the Citizens' Assembly should be binding and have a direct political impact, as there are "some very clear and urgent measures", such as "punishing ecocide, proposals to reduce working hours, the introduction of home office or the promotion of energy communities".
Citizens' Assembly based on law
The implementation of the Citizens' Assembly is based, among other things, on the Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition passed in May 2021. Article 39 of the text of the law, which deals with "citizen participation", states that for the development of "plans, programmes, strategies, instruments and general provisions to be adopted in the fight against climate change and energy transition", the government will "ensure structured citizen participation [...] through the establishment of a National Citizens' Assembly on Climate Change".
The Spanish Council of Ministers had declared a climate emergency on 21 January 2020. A decision that recognises the urgency of taking action against global climate change. The emergency declaration, which has no legally binding effect, has been adopted by various institutions inside and outside Spain since 2019. The UK and Ireland were the first countries to do so. Since then, other states, regions and cities have joined. In Spain, cities like Madrid and Barcelona, provincial councils, regional governments and other institutions like some universities have followed suit.
Goal of climate neutrality
By 2030, Spain wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by a third. By 2050 at the latest, the goal of climate neutrality is to be achieved by ensuring that 100 per cent of electricity comes from renewable energies and that vehicles no longer emit CO2. Agriculture is also to become climate-neutral. The tax, budgetary and financial system is to be designed in such a way that it is compatible with the targeted decarbonisation of the economy and society.
The government and parliament will now address the recommendations of the Climate Assembly.