In the Netherlands, convening citizens' assemblies is becoming a trend. There is a growing awareness that better decisions can be made together with the residents and that they get more support. But what is happened now in the municipality of Rheden is still something special.
The municipality in the province of Gelderland not only asked the G1000.nu foundation to organise a citizens' assembly on climate change. The municipal council had also decided on 31 May 2022 to "take the results of the citizens' assembly into account when developing further policy, unless there are very strong arguments against it." So assembly participants were investing time and energy and must be confident that the local council will keep its promise.
The G1000.nu foundation points to successful predecessors of the citizens' assembly in Rheden. In Heerenveen, for example, the first results of the citizens' assembly on a sustainable city centre have become visible. A representation of the participants continues to serve the municipality as a sounding board for further developments.
In the municipality of Steenwijkerland, the results of the citizens' assembly on "energy neutrality" are still being built upon years later, according to G1000.nu. The citizens' assembly G1000Steenwijkerland had led to the establishment of a new foundation in which residents develop all kinds of sustainable initiatives with the support of the municipality.
Start with 400 participants
The assembly members had been randomly selected in May 2022. 10,000 residents had received a written invitation. In order for as many people as possible to sign up, the Rheden municipality had an information campaign. A bus provided people in the individual districts with information about the citizens' assembly and what it means to participate. All residents aged 16 and over can take part.
The Citizens' Assembly G1000Rheden had started on 25 June 2022. On that day, the 400 randomly selected participants met for a "citizens' summit" to discuss the question "How can Rheden become carbon-neutral by 2040?". Together they agreed on what they considered to be the important issues.
Deliberation from July to October 2022
From July to October 2022, the participants developed their ideas into concrete proposals. This was done in smaller groups that work together in workshops and are supported by facilitators and minute-takers. The groups could turn to experts, people with practical knowledge and impulse generators, and also gather information on their own. There were also three online meetings between the workshops where the working groups presented their proposals to each other and received feedback on them.
The results of the climate assembly in Rheden were published on 12 November 2022 and handed over to the citizens' council. On this day, the citizens' assembly met for the last time and the participants voted on their climate protection proposals. The citizens' assembly's recommendations include supporting residents in making their homes sustainable, reducing their carbon footprint and consumption, and climate change education campaigns. Neighbourhood-oriented energy solutions should be explored. The municipality is also to change its environmental management.
Afterwards, it will become clear how the municipality implements its promise.
Read more: Citizens' Assembly „G1000 Rheden“