A national citizens' assembly on climate change has been running in Spain since 20 November 2021. One hundred randomly selected citizens, as a reflection of society, discuss the question "A safer Spain in the face of climate change - how do we do it?" in five online sessions. The country is thus following the examples of Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Scotland and the UK.
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".
In Ireland, randomly selected citizens had already formulated recommendations for national climate policy in 2017. The members of the Citizens' Assembly voted 80 per cent or more in favour of 13 recommendations on climate change. These included proposals such as creating a new governance structure that puts 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.
The Climate Assembly in France, held from October 2019 to June 2020, had formulated 149 proposals on how France can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030. The recommendations, compiled in a 500-page citizens' report, include far-reaching proposals for the economy, transport, housing, trade and food. The UK Climate Assembly had presented its recommendations on 10 September 2020. According to the report, in order to achieve the country's targeted climate neutrality by 2050, a frequent flyer tax is to be introduced, the gradual abolition of environmentally harmful SUVs and the restriction of cars in city centres are to be pushed forward.
After five months of debate, the Danish Climate Assembly had adopted 119 concrete recommendations for a green transition on 29 April 2021, which were handed over to the Minister for Climate, Energy and Supply and the Parliamentary Committee on Climate, Energy and Supply. The recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly members were wide-ranging. They ranged from proposals for climate crisis education in primary schools to climate taxes, new eating habits and a green constitution.
The Climate Assembly held in Finland in April 2021 had recommended, among other things, that consumers be given comprehensive and clear information about measures with economic consequences, so that all income groups can apply for support and deductions or otherwise take account of the new economic changes. According to the 33 participants, there should already be comprehensive education in primary school, for example in the form of climate education. A climate protection plan should contain clear and concise justifications for economic measures in order to raise public awareness. Special attention should be paid to the poor and elderly when providing information on financial support options.
81 recommendations in Scotland
The Scottish Climate Assembly had submitted its recommendations to the parliament on 24 June 2021. The Citizens' Report of the 100 Assembly participants comprises 81 recommendations, adopted by large consensus, for achieving 16 key goals. The recommendations cover topics such as domestic heating, emissions, environmental impact in public procurement, land use and agriculture, taxation, transport (including air travel) and the economy.
The nationwide climate assembly in Germany ran from April to June 2021. 160 randomly selected people met there and discussed possible measures to deal with the climate crisis. They were informed by experts from science, business and civil society. The participants discussed together how Germany can still achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement - taking into account social, economic and ecological aspects. The Citizens' Assemblies recommendations have been incorporated into a Citizens' Report, which was handed over to top politicians of all democratic parties represented in the Bundestag on 15 September 2021.
Climate emergency in Spain
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.
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 recommendations of the Spanish Citizens' Assembly are to be discussed in Parliament in the first quarter of 2022.