Estonia is not missing out on the global citizens' assembly wave. From 20 November to 5 December 2021, the country held its first randomly selected citizens' assembly on climate change. The Climate Assembly was aimed at young people between the ages of 16 and 29 in Ida-Viru County. Participants were randomly selected from the population register.
By the end of October, about 3,500 young people from Ida-Viru County had received an invitation to participate in the Climate Assembly. Those who wanted to participate had to apply via an online form. An algorithm was then used to select around 40 young people from the applicants who were a reflection of the population in terms of male/female ratio, place of residence, employment and mother tongue.
Why only young people were able to participate
Only young people were invited to this Climate Assembly because studies show that their values and needs regarding decisions about the future and the environment differ from those of older people.
The Climate Assembly took place because Ida-Viru County is in the process of transitioning from the oil shale industry to a greener and more diversified economy. A Fair Transition Fund is being set up to transform the county's emissions-intensive industry and support the retraining of people, small businesses, local authorities and communities. The transformation is being led by the Ministry of Finance and the Ida Viru Communities Association. The transformation plan, which is the result of several years of discussions, will be completed no later than early 2022. Young people from the district were expected to contribute to the plan through the Climate Assembly.
Citizens' Assembly evaluates plans on climate action
The Youth Climate Assembly evaluated the district's plans on climate action and suggested improvements to make the transition to a climate-neutral future fair from the perspective of young people. In doing so, participants listened to representatives from government, industry and environmental associations. The suggestions were presented to the state government and municipalities in the county so that they could be taken into account in the national plans and the county's strategy in the best possible way.
The Climate Assembly took place over three days: on 20 and 21 November 2021 to gather knowledge and listen to stakeholders, and on 5 December to formulate recommendations.
Recommendations handed over to government
On 10 December 2021, the proposals formulated by the Climate Assembly for making the country more climate-friendly were handed over to the Minister of State Administration Jaak Aab. According to the young participants, it is important to expand education in the region, to match labour market needs and workforce skills, to ensure social security for people affected by change and to create new opportunities, as well as to promote entrepreneurship. The proposals are intended to complement the country's transformation plan.
During a meeting of participants of the Climate Assembly with the government in April 2022, they were told that some of the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly will be implemented under the Fair Transition Plan. "I am pleased that most of the suggestions made by young people are either already covered by existing policies or have been taken into account in the preparation of the Fair Transition Plan, while the remaining suggestions will be considered from a forward-looking perspective," said Jaak Aab, Minister of Public Administration.
Young people found new organisation
The organisers from Estonian Wildlife Fund and Rohetiiger wanted to offer young people with the citizens' assembly a unique opportunity to influence one of the biggest social changes in Estonia in recent decades.
As a result of the citizens' assembly, young people from Ida-Viru have formed a new organisation called People with Purpose. This was invited to represent the voice of young people in the steering committee for fair change of the Ministry of Finance. The knowledge, self-knowledge, interest and confidence they gained at the climate summit inspired local young people to work together.