Climate assembly in Stuttgart

03. March 2023
Stadt Stuttgart

What role does the city of Stuttgart play in climate protection and what measures should Stuttgart take to help achieve the 1.5 degree target of the Paris Climate Agreement? This is the question 61 randomly selected citizens have been dealing with since 4 March 2023.

The implementation of the citizens' assembly is thanks to a citizens' initiative. In 2021, the "Initiative Bürger*innenrat Klima für Stuttgart" (Climate Assembly Initiative Stuttgart) had collected more than 2,500 signatures for a residents' motion on this issue. In December 2021, the city council followed the motion with a resolution to hold such a mini public.

"Stuttgart sets standards in citizen participation"

"Stuttgart sets standards in citizen participation and climate protection: in the Citizens' Assembly on Climate, people from different backgrounds come together to formulate joint recommendations," Stuttgart's Lord Mayor Dr. Frank Nopper had explained at the time. "We are looking for conciliatory, pragmatic and innovative solutions that are acceptable to the citizens. Because climate protection is only possible if everyone pulls together!"

The implementation resolution of the municipal council states that the climate assembly is an opportunity for the administration to understand even better what citizens expect from it in view of the current situation. It could also be an interesting opportunity for the administration to reflect ideas for measures in the population and to obtain a clear vote from the citizens before introducing them to the municipal council.

6,000 Stuttgart residents invited

6,000 Stuttgart residents aged 16 and over, randomly selected from the population register, were invited to take part in the citizens' assembly. Just under 900 interested people had responded. From these applications, an assembly was put together that is a reflection of the population according to age, gender, migration background, education, employment, economic and financial situation, permanent physical or health restrictions and the presence of underage children.

Young people are more strongly represented in the citizens' assembly than in the population as a whole. A total of ten people aged 16 or 17 are participants in the assembly. The young people are supposed to represent all Stuttgart residents under 18 - including children who are not yet able to participate in discussions.

Six meetings

The 61 assembly participants will meet for six days between March and June 2023. During this time, they will learn everything important about the climate and discuss various recommendations to politicians. Experts and other stakeholders will share their knowledge with the participants.

The experts include marine researcher and climate communicator Dr. Udo Engelhardt and Prof. Dr. Jürgen Baumüller, Honorary Professor of Climatology at the University of Stuttgart. In addition, environmental associations such as BUND will contribute their knowledge, as will the Stadtwerke Stuttgart and the Guild of Sanitary, Heating and Air Conditioning Technology Stuttgart.

Recommendations for municipal council

After its last meeting, the citizens' assembly presents its recommendations to the Stuttgart City Council. The city council will discuss each recommendation of the assembly and give reasons for which recommendations it will implement and which it will not. The city of Stuttgart has an office which, after the citizens' assembly, ensures that the results are dealt with further in administration and politics.

In July 2022, the city council decided that Stuttgart should reach net-zero by 2035. Therefore, the citizens' assembly is to focus on two particularly difficult sub-questions:

1. what steps should Stuttgart take to achieve a net-zero heat supply?

2. what steps should Stuttgart take to achieve net-zero mobility? What impact does mobility have on road space?

Justification of the issues

Many people are affected by high heating costs in the winter of 2022/23 and wonder how they can change this situation. At the same time, heating buildings produces a large proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, which Stuttgart must quickly reduce in the coming years, it says in justification of addressing the issue of heat supply.

If a net-zero heat supply is to be established, questions arise about areas and technology, about the effects of the conversion and those affected by it, and about how the costs, but also the benefits, of the conversion can be fairly distributed.

Acceptable solutions

On the subject of mobility, it is said that space is needed on the roads for climate-friendly means of transport and for climate adaptation. Among other things, this raises the question: For which use of road space should there be how much space in view of the climate issue? And if there is not enough space, how do we deal with roadside parking, for example?

The citizens are on the move in the street space every day and therefore have a high interest in the topic, which is also expressed in strong opinions and emotional reactions. Therefore, it would be an opportunity to deal with the issue in more detail in the climate assembls in order to obtain solutions that the majority of people would accept and welcome.

Procedure laid down in policy paper

In the eleven-page "Principles for the Climate Assembly Stuttgart" the procedure of the assembly is laid down in detail. Thus it can be read there that the dates of the citizens' assembly must be suitable for most people. "People with disabilities are given special support. If needed, there are also offers for care or childcare for relatives of participants who need to be looked after during this time. Experts are encouraged and, if possible, selected to present in language that is easy to understand. There will also be an expense allowance paid to all members of the assembly," it continues.

The citizens' assembly is led by an independent coordination, which is responsible for preparing the procedure, developing the agenda, inviting experts and moderators and more. The procedure is moderated by the Stuttgart-based communications office Ulmer, and carried out by the associated company Ifok. The Fraunhofer Institute evaluates the citizens' assembly and writes a final report. The climate assembly costs totalling 293,000 euros are borne by the city of Stuttgart.

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