A citizens' assembly initiated by the population has developed recommendations on climate policy in the Austrian province of Vorarlberg. How can a joint approach to the great challenge of the climate crisis succeed in Vorarlberg? Where does politics need us? Where do we need politics? These were the questions discussed in the assembly on 2/3 July 2021.
21 randomly selected citizens from all over Vorarlberg had come together for 1.5 days to work out jointly supported recommendations to politics. The assembly was already the twelfth state-wide citizens' assembly and the third initiated by the population. More than 1,000 people had signed a petition calling for the convening of this citizens' assembly. The number of signatures required to convene a citizens' assembly of 1,000 had thus been reached.
Public presentation of results at the Citizens' Café
On 6 July, a citizens' café was held in the Vorarlberg Museum in Bregenz to present the results of the consultation. Here the participants also had the opportunity to discuss the results once again. Initial feedback from the politicians was also part of the event. After the presentation, there was lively discussion, recommendations were reiterated and important points were added.
The Citizens' Council dealt with the following topics
- Raising Awareness / Sensitisation / Education
- Reward & Incentive
- Dealing with resources
- Global framework
- Role of politics & participation
The participants drawn for the Citizens' Council noted that the population is still not sufficiently aware of the climate crisis. Therefore, they said, there is a need to raise awareness with regard to the impacts of climate change. "In order to reach all social groups, social (economic) inequality must be reduced in general - because at the moment climate protection is an issue of privileged groups," the citizens' assembly said.
Information campaigns recommended
The members therefore recommend information campaigns in the media that are tailored to specific target groups. The information must also be carried into schools and training companies. It is also important to set an example in environmental, consumption and travel behaviour. Products and producers from the region should be promoted. In kindergartens and schools, more space should be created for climate protection as well as nature and environmental issues.
The citizens' assembly also recommends rewarding climate-friendly actions. For a skiing trip, for example, this could be done by offering cheaper ski tickets when travelling by public transport. Renewable energy and energy self-sufficient buildings and communities should be supported and the sealing of more land should be reduced. In addition, the country's agricultural policy should be reconsidered.
"Radical expansion" of public transport
The citizens' assembly also wants people without cars to be able to live uncomplicated everyday lives. It therefore proposes a "radical expansion" of public transport. Cities should become car-free. Cycling networks should be expanded, as should charging stations for electric vehicles.
Climate protection should also play a role in relations with other countries. The citizens' assembly proposes that the country's own problems, such as waste disposal, should not be shifted to other countries, for example through waste exports. "Modern colonialism" through the exploitation of the "Third World" should be stopped. The UN's 17 sustainability goals should be made better known.
Transparency and citizen participation
In order for citizens to be able to understand climate policy decisions, the citizens' assembly calls for transparent information on how they were made. Politicians should implement sensible measures even if these measures could cost parties votes from the affected sector.
In addition, opportunities for co-determination should be offered in order to include the views of the population. For example, an authority or citizens' assembly with decision-making power, e.g. as a nature conservation advocate, or an independent climate council with citizens and qualified actors with party status in procedures could be established.
Process documentation and discussion
Over the summer, a comprehensive process documentation was prepared. All contents from all process steps flew into this report, which were handed over to the Vorarlberg state government. On 12 October 2021, the elaborated ideas were discussed by the provincial government. Some of the proposed measures could be well integrated into existing activities, according to Governor Markus Wallner. Other proposals would now be examined for their feasibility.