Berlin citizens' assembly advocates more climate action

Senatsverwaltung für Umwelt, Mobilität, Verbraucher- und Klimaschutz Berlin

After about eight weeks of intensive deliberations, Berlin's first Climate Assembly presented almost 50 recommendations to politicians on 30 June 2022. The wishes that the committee of 100 citizens decided on with a majority in each case include more attractive local public transport, a reduction in car traffic and the preservation of existing green spaces.

In addition, the participants want to accelerate the energy-efficient renovation of buildings, cushion the costs for this socially and not pass them on to tenants alone. They also call for a faster expansion of renewable energies, for example with the help of a "solar and green roof obligation". A majority of the Citizens' Assembly participants also considers the examination of a city toll necessary and recommend an emission-free city centre without combustion cars from 2030.

"Working together towards the goal"

"We all agreed that energy and resource consumption must be reduced in all areas - state, economy and society. It is very important that the people of Berlin work together towards this goal. This requires socially just measures, education and dialogue between politics and the population. Because many people are still not aware of what the climate crisis means for all of us. It is crucial that the Senate deals responsibly with our recommendations," says Citizens' Assembly member Malte Hally (27).

"The Climate Assembly was a unique experience. With so many different Berliners, there were of course arguments at times. But in the end we all agreed: more must be done for climate protection, and we can't afford to hesitate. Because without an intact living space, we all have no future. Politicians must finally put climate protection first," commented Beatrice Al-Mardini-Krukow (68), as another Citizens' Assembly participant on the recommendations.

Deliberations from April to June 2022

From 26 April to 18 Juni 2022, 100 randomly selected Berliners met to discuss climate action. Their recommendations will be deliberated by the state government and the House of Representatives of the city-state.

In an elaborate selection process that started at the beginning of February 2022 - first randomly via the registration register, then according to representative quota criteria - 100 Berliners have been found to discuss and co-decide on the climate protection policy future of the capital in a total of nine meetings.

Members between 17 and 80 years old

The members of the Climate Assembly came from all twelve city districts and are between 17 and 80 years old. A quarter of them had a migration background, and exactly half are women. They were to discuss climate action for Berlin on behalf of all Berliners, accompanied by experts.

The randomly selected assembly on climate action is the result of a popular initiative. On 2 December 2020, the initiative "Klimaneustart Berlin" (Climate Restart) had handed over 32,011 signatures for a popular initiative to convene a climate assembly to the House of Representatives. Despite the restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of people had signed the demand. On 20 January 2021, the Berlin Senate had determined the admissibility of the popular initiative "Klimaneustart Berlin". Of 31,902 verified signatures, 24,812 were valid. Because the necessary minimum number of 20,000 signatures was reached, 2,039 more signatures were not verified.

Ideas for revising the climate action plan

On 29 April 2021, the Environment Committee of the House of Representatives had granted the popular initiative for a Climate Assembly in the German capital.  On 6 May 2021, the House of Representatives had confirmed the decision of the Environment Committee to convene a Climate Assembly.

"The ideas developed in the Citizens' Assembly will form the basis for the upcoming revision of Berlin's energy and climate protection programme. A Climate Assembly offers a great opportunity to work out the measures with which Berlin can embark on a reduction path in line with Paris. Berlin could become a role model for other cities, as announced by the governing parties in their coalition agreement," explained Felix Nasser, one of the confidants of Klimaneustart Berlin.

Mini-Berlin

The Citizens' Assembly was a kind of Mini-Berlin: It consisted of 100 people whose composition reflects the population of the capital as closely as possible. An algorithm therefore selected 100 people from all those interested who best reflect the population of Berlin according to the criteria of age, gender, educational attainment, district of residence and migration experience. The aim of the process was to reach people who are otherwise rarely involved in participation processes.

The citizens' assembly met a total of nine times. The first meeting of the Climate Assembly took place on 26 April 2022. The main topics were mobility, buildings and energy. After the presentation of the results, politicians will have the opportunity to react. "The Climate Assembly has presented clear and precise recommendations that politicians will now deal with thoroughly - both the Senate and the House of Representatives," explained Climate Protection Senator Bettina Jarasch (Greens). "Quite obviously, citizens want even more effective measures to reduce car traffic: we will have to talk about that. The Senate will discuss the recommendations in the new climate committee, the House of Representatives in the parliamentary committee for environment and climate protection" , said Jarasch.

The assembly was being conducted by the Nexus Institute, which is experienced in democracy by sortition. Scientific advice was provided by the Potsdam Institute For Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS).

"Sort out how to handle the recommendations"

The association "Mehr Demokratie" welcomed the establishment of a climate assembly in Berlin. "We are very pleased that the Senate is relying on urban society for the key issue of climate and has set up a citizens' assembly for this purpose," said Oliver Wiedmann, regional board spokesperson for Mehr Demokratie Berlin/Brandenburg. "It must be ensured that the recommendations of the citizens' assembly are also taken into account in the end."

Since the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly would not be formally binding, he said, it is already important to sort out how the recommendations would be dealt with. The proposals could be discussed in the newly formed Senate Climate Committee and in the relevant committees of the House of Representatives. Representatives of the Climate Assembly could be heard. It would also be desirable for the Senate to issue a statement on the status of the implementation of the recommendations six months after the conclusion of the Climate Assembly.

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