What do we need to do in Mallorca by 2030 to tackle the climate emergency effectively and in a socially just way? This is the question that 60 randomly selected residents of the Spanish Balearic island are discussing since 19 November 2022. The government of the Balearic Islands and the Mallorca City Council have committed to implementing any recommendations that the citizens' assembly decides with a majority of at least 90 percent. An approval rate that is not at all uncommon in such mini publics. But all other recommendations will also be examined.
"The question is not whether we will either make a profound energy transition or carry on as usual. Change is on our doorstep, and it is up to each of us to decide how much damage it will do," says Pau de Vílchez, professor of international law and international relations and deputy director of the Interdisciplinary Climate Change Laboratory at the University of the Balearic Islands. The latter had taken the initiative for the climate assembly.
"Challenges that affect our lives"
"We are dealing with a challenge that will affect all aspects of our lives," de Vílchez said, alluding to the unusually high number of tropical nights, heat waves and flood disasters like the one in Pakistan. "All this is part of the 'new normal' and it concerns everyone," he finds.
"How to make the change, where to start, which alternative energies should be prioritised or how to change transport are societal debates that go beyond the scientific debate. It is about citizens evaluating the options. We hope that it will be a good experience for the participants and that the debate will reach the whole society, that it will go beyond the assembly," de Vilchez continues.
10,000 islanders had been invited to the climate assembly in Mallorca. The 60 participants were selected from those drawn to participate according to the criteria of age, gender, place of residence, level of education and income in such a way as to represent a reflection of the island's population. "The voice of people who otherwise hardly get a hearing should also be given weight in this way," de Vílchez explains the purpose of the sortition procedure, which was carried out by the Sortition Foundation.
Five assembly meetings will be held between 19 November 2022 and 18 February 2023. In the first session, participants were introduced to the topic of climate change and a climate of trust and participation was created, which is a prerequisite for respectful and constructive debate.
The following three sessions will focus on energy production, mobility and transport, and the role of ecosystems, natural areas and agriculture as fields for combating climate change. In each session, both experts and stakeholders such as employers, trade unions and civil society representatives will present their views. The fifth and final session will review the proposals developed in the previous sessions and decide on final adoption.
The five assembly meetings are held without media or other outside observation. This is to ensure the anonymity of the participants. The contents and discussions in the citizens' assembly will be kept confidential in order to give the participants the peace they need for their deliberations and not to expose them to public pressure. The recommendations of the assembly will be presented to the public at the end of February 2023.
Rejection of proposals will be justified
In addition to committing to implementing all assembly recommendations that receive at least 90 per cent approval, the Government of the Balearic Islands and the Mallorca City Council intend to provide detailed reasons in each case why proposals will not be implemented. Assembly recommendations that do not fall under the responsibility of the government or the city council will be forwarded to the relevant institutions.