Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Scotland and the UK have led the way, now Germany followed. The nationwide Citizens' Assembly on Climate Change has been running from 26 April to 23 June 2021. 160 randomly selected people came together and discussed possible measures to deal with the climate crisis. They were informed by experts from science, business and civil society.
Together, the participants discussed how Germany can still achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement - taking into account social, economic and ecological aspects.
Climate protection goal cannot be achieved with climate package
Within the framework of the Paris Climate Agreement, Germany has committed itself to making its contribution to limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees as far as possible. "According to experts, this goal cannot be achieved with the climate package adopted by the Bundestag in December 2019," it says on the Citizens' Assembly website. One reason for the reluctance of politicians is the social conflict potential of political measures that intervene deeply in the lives of citizens.
"The course set in the climate issue must be supported by all" is the reason why the supporting organisation "BürgerBegehren Klimaschutz" (Citizens' Climate Protection Initiative) is organising the Citizens' Assembly. The patron is none other than former Federal President Horst Köhler. "If Germany wants to achieve the Paris climate goals, a great willingness to change is needed in society. That is why it is so important that citizens are involved in the search for solutions - and that politicians take their suggestions seriously," says the former head of state.
"Non-partisan and open-ended"
The Climate Assembly offers non-partisan and open-ended space to clarify which concrete measures well-informed citizens are willing to support, even if they involve cuts in their everyday lives, the initiators explain. Proposed solutions developed by citizens reflect a common basis for decision-making, are perceived as fair and are capable of gaining majority support.
In order to determine the individual focal points of the Citizens' Assembly on Climate, political parties and civil society organisations were consulted as well as ordinary citizens in an online survey. A scientific board of trustees also made its contribution. In the end, the priority areas for action were mobility, energy, buildings and heat, and nutrition.
The sortition procedure
The Citizens' Assembly participants were drawn at random from the population registers of municipalities of various sizes from all over Germany, also drawn at random. The 160 participants were selected from those who were randomly selected and interested according to criteria such as age, gender, education, size of place of residence, origin by federal state and attitude towards climate protection in such a way that the assembly is a reflection of society with regard to these criteria.
The participants discussed climate policy options online on twelve dates. In the process, they were advised by experts from the individual thematic areas. The scientific advisory board monitored the openness of the entire process. The resulting recommendations will be summarised in a citizens' report and submitted to the politicians. The citizens' assembly was moderated by participation experts from ifok, nexus and IPG institutes.
The Citizens' Assembly on Climate Change got broad support in society. About 70 organisations belonged to the circle of supporters, including the AWO (Workers' Welfare Association) and Misereor, the German Farmers' Union, Bread for the World, the Association of Energy Consumers and, last but not least, environmental organisations such as BUND and WWF.
The Climate Assembly in Germany was preceded by citizens' assemblies on the topic in Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Scotland and the UK. In June 2020, the 150 members of the French Climate Assembly "Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat" adopted 149 recommendations. In a 500-page citizens' report, they contain far-reaching proposals for the economy, transport, housing, trade and food. The proposed measures are intended to reduce the country's CO2 emissions by 40 percent by 2030.
France partially implements Citizens' Assembly recommendations
On 10 February 2021, the government presented a bill to implement the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly. In it, 25 proposals of the Convention Citoyenne do not appear, 19 were adopted, 75 were partially adopted. On 14 December 2020, Macron had already announced that he would follow the Citizens' Assembly's proposal to have all citizens vote in a referendum on the insertion of the state goal of climate protection into the constitution.
A frequent flyer tax, phasing out polluting SUVs and restricting cars in city centres are among the solutions to the climate crisis proposed by the UK Climate Assembly "NetZero UK". The climate policy recommendations of the randomly selected citizens assembly were presented on 10 September 2020.
Interim report in Scotland
An interim report of Scotland’s Climate Assembly was laid in the Scottish Parliament on 24 march 2021. It set out 16 goals agreed by an overwhelming consensus of members for tackling the climate emergency in a fair and effective way. These goals cover a broad range of issues including domestic heating, emissions, land use, taxation and the economy.
The Assembly met seven times within five months and members have deliberated on evidence from over 100 expert speakers. The remit of the Assembly tasked members with responding to the question: ‘How should Scotland change to tackle the climate emergency in an effective and fair way?’ The Assembly’s full report with detailed recommendations will be published in May 2021 following the election of a new Scottish Parliament.
Climate Assembly in Ireland
Back in 2017, Ireland held a Citizens Assembly on Climate Change, which recommended far-reaching climate action. Members of the Citizens Assembly voted 80 per cent or more in favour of 13 recommendations on climate change. These included proposals such as the creation of a new government structure to put climate policy at the heart of policymaking. There were also majorities in favour of increasing Ireland's carbon tax and taxing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, which is Ireland's biggest emitter of climate-damaging gases.
Recommendations continued to include widespread expansion of cycle paths and public transport, reforestation measures, an immediate halt to subsidies for peat extraction and the promotion of organic farming. In mid-2019, the work of the Citizens' Assembly resulted in a Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce Ireland's emissions by 30 per cent between 2021 and 2030.
- Citizens' Assembly demands priority for climate protection
- Citizens' Assembly on Climate Change Germany
- Denmark: Borgerting på klimaområdet
- Finnland: Ilmastotoimia arvioiva kansalaisraati
- France: Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat
- UK: Climate Assembly UK
- Scotland: Climate Assembly Scot
- Climate action through citizens' assemblies?