Climate assembly to politicians: "Come to an agreement!"

20. May 2024
Curt Gervich / Medborgarrådet

Make climate change a school subject, invest in high-speed trains and make public transport more reliable, more equal and cheaper. These are three of 22 recommendations from the first national Swedish Climate Citizens' Assembly.

In a joint declaration and in its 22 proposals, the assembly emphasises that Sweden's environmental goals should be as cross-cutting an issue as its defence policy. "The climate issue is too important to remain a political pawn, it is up to all of us to act now," said the assembly members. "If we can agree, our elected representatives should be able to do the same."

The most important recommendations

Among the proposals that received the strongest support from the mini-public were:

  • Government and opposition should work together on climate change, as they do on pensions and defence policy
  • Introduce protection against high cost public transport tickets and a national ticketing system
  • Inclusion of climate change in the school curriculum
  • Raising the profile of natural areas in urban planning
  • Development of a label for climate-friendly products, goods and services
  • Introduction of a national car-sharing service
  • Nationalisation and expansion of rail transport
  • Maximising mobility through improved cycling infrastructure

In addition, heavy goods transport is to be electrified, cars converted to sustainable electric drives and a "sensible air traffic tax" introduced.

"The fact that so many people can agree on so much is amazing. It's possible if you have a dialogue based on respect and listen to each other and the experts," says assembly participant Sara Lundmark from Älvsjö.

60 assembly members

The climate protection proposals were developed by 60 randomly selected residents. The Citizens' Assembly began its work on 9 March 2024 and met until 19 May 2024. The results were presented to the public on 20 May 2024. Representatives from seven of the eight parties represented in parliament were present to receive the action plan. "I will share it with my colleagues on the Environment and Agriculture Committee and read it to see what I can use," announced Helena Storckenfeldt, Member of Parliament.

In a total of nine sessions, the 60 participants learnt about climate change and possible measures to combat it, discussed solutions and made proposals on how Sweden can fulfil its commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement. The first and last sessions took place in person, while the sessions in between were held online. The participants were supported in their deliberations by experts. Their presentations and further information were published on the Citizens' Assembly website.

Agreement on global warming

The Paris Agreement is a treaty under international law concluded by 195 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with the aim of protecting the climate as a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

The agreement was adopted on 12 December 2015 at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP 21) by all parties to the UNFCCC, at that time 195 states and the European Union, and provides for global warming to be limited to "well below" two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times and for efforts to be made to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Participants randomly selected

The members of the Citizens' Assembly were selected at random, so that the assembly was a reflection of the Swedish population. To this end, invitations were sent out to 7,000 residents of the country based on data from the state address register. All residents aged 15 and over were in the lottery pot.

Register entries on gender, age, place of residence, social class and residence in urban or rural areas were used to recruit participants. 490 randomly selected people expressed an interest in participating in the Citizens' Assembly. Of these, 60 people were selected using an algorithm.

Representative sample

As part of their registration, potential assembly participants completed a questionnaire in which they answered questions about their level of education, possible migration background, their concerns about climate change and the party they would vote for if elections were held today. This information was used to ensure that the final sample was representative of the diversity of the population. Previously, the sample data had been anonymised.

The assembly participants received an allowance of 8,000 Swedish kronor (around 715 euros) per person for attending the meetings. Participants were also reimbursed for travelling expenses and, if necessary, additional costs such as childcare.

"Impressed and inspired"

"It was fantastic to follow this process (...), the in-depth discussions on complex issues, with people listening to each other with respect", says Tim Daw, sustainability researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University and project manager of the Citizens' Assembly.

"I am truly impressed and inspired by everyone on the assembly. Their commitment, process, dialogues and what they have come up with make them role models for all of us and not least our politicians in the country," commented former Swedish track and field athlete Carolina Klüft, a mentor of the Citizens' Assembly, on the work of the mini-public.

"Strong faith in my fellow human beings"

As the second Citizens' Assembly mentor, environmental historian Prof Sverker Sörlin explained: "I think politicians who look at the proposals can see that there is support in a cross-section of the population for going much further than they have dared to do so far. This should give politicians a bit of backbone to dare more, they don't have the people against them if they ask for more sacrifices".

"I take with me a very strong faith in my fellow human beings and then, if I am to be a little selfish, I am very happy to have received this education and to have met all these associate professors and doctors who devote their lives to this research", said 27-year-old Aria Mirzai from Gothenburg.

"There was a lot of listening"

Participant Ulrika Månsson (52) from Vilsärad said that the discussions could be heated and arouse emotions, but that there was a respectfulness that is otherwise lacking. "There was a lot of listening in, trying to let people talk to the point and be respectful, which I lack in the public space. There you have to win points or push someone else," she said.

19-year-old Huge Wrege from Enköping learnt, "that I can actually change my mind, which I didn't think before when I get a lot of good information from knowledgeable people and then debate, think a bit and then come to my own conclusion".

Advisory board and mentors

An advisory board made up of people from a broad political spectrum advised and monitored the preparation and implementation of the Citizens' Assembly. During implementation, the mini-public had two mentors. The quality of the process was also reviewed by an independent evaluation team. The results are documented in an evaluation report.

The mini-public has been requested by both civil society actors and researchers. In 2022 and 2023, the Swedish government's national coordinator for the 2030 Agenda proposed the establishment of a national citizens' assembly on sustainable development.

12th national climate assembly

The Citizens' Assembly is part of the FAIRTRANS research programme, a collaboration between Stockholm University, Gävle University, Uppsala University, Lund University and the Swedish Environmental Research Institute IVL. Fairtrans is funded by Mistra and Formas. The mini-public is partly funded by the European Climate Foundation.

The Climate Assembly in Sweden was the 12th national citizens' assembly on climate change. Climate assemblies have previously been held in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Spain and the UK. To date, there have been more than 140 climate assemblies worldwide.

Learn more: