In Luxembourg, a Climate Assembly handed over its recommendations to Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, Environment Minister Joëlle Welfring and Energy Minister Claude Turmes on 15 September 2022. The main focus of the 57 recommendations is a cross-departmental approach to climate policy. In addition, the final report includes considerations on agriculture, renewable energies, sustainable housing, waste management and mobility.
The Climate Assembly, with 100 randomly selected people had met from January to September 2022. With the support of experts, the participants discussed concrete climate topics.
Less meat, more renewable energies
In the area of agriculture, the citizens' assembly proposes to introduce an "environmental indicator" on products and to set up a "low ecological footprint" section in every shop. In addition, the shelf life dates of food should be redefined and everyone should be encouraged to reduce their meat consumption.
By increasing the Ccarbon tax and redistributing the revenue according to exemplary emissions performance, environmentally conscious behaviour would be upgraded. In addition, 100 per cent renewable energy should be targeted by 2040 to achieve "a better quality of life and energy independence, which is more relevant than ever".
Renovate instead of demolish
Buildings should be renovated instead of demolished and rebuilt, recyclable materials should be used and building land should be managed in a more "orderly" way while supporting sustainable neighbourhoods.
Repair instead of throw away: Planned obsolescence - a manufacturer-intentional, premature reduction in product lifespan - must be put to an end, according to the citizens' assembly. The recycling system should be further developed through more innovative packaging and, for example, a systematic deposit system.
Lower traffic speeds
In the area of transport, the assembly proposes, among other things, lower speeds, free cross-border transport and a complete rethink of the work culture regarding possibilities of coworking, teleworking and four-day weeks.
The starting point for the discussions in the Citizens' Assembly will be the National Energy and Climate Plan, which already contains a number of ambitious goals and measures. The 100 citizens will discuss how far they want to go beyond this climate plan.
"Time for an innovative democratic project"
"More than ever, we need a social consensus on how we want to tackle the climate crisis together," Prime Minister Xavier Bettel had said in a State of the Union address on 12 October 2021. "Climate policy concerns us all. Because it affects us all at the heart of our coexistence. How do we want to live in the future? What kind of planet do we want to leave to future generations? The climate issue is a social issue. That is why we also need society at the table when we discuss further climate measures," said Bettel, explaining his push for the Citizens' Assembly.
Extraordinary situations require extraordinary measures. It was time for an innovative democratic project, which had not yet existed in this form in Luxembourg. It is time to involve society in climate policy negotiations.
"Recommendations very clear"
"I applaud the Climate Assembly for its courage, without which such careful and ambitious work would not have been possible. We also hope for broad political support in the parliament, which does justice to the seriousness of the situation and respects the work that has been done in this participatory project," said Bettel when handed over the assembly recommendations.
For the Minister of Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development, Joëlle Welfring, "the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly on Climate are very clear and testify to the very encouraging quality of the work that has been done in the citizens' assembly in recent months. We would look at each of these recommendations in detail to incorporate as many of them as possible in the process of updating the PNEC."
Working group to implement recommendations
The governing council has decided to establish a working group comprising representatives from the Ministry of State, the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Development and the Ministry of Energy and Physical Planning to coordinate the preparatory work to incorporate the proposals of the climate assembly into the discussions on the PNEC update.
Interested citizens had until 19 January 2022 to register or were contacted at random by TNS-Ilres. The selection process was then carried out by the opinion research institute, taking into account gender, age (16 years and older), occupation, level of education, nationality and cross-border commuter.
Citizens' Assembly extended
Assembly members were compensated 125 Euros per meeting, the same amount that MPs receive for attending committee meetings. An information meeting was held on 29 January, partly with the aim of bringing the 100 selected participants (60 effective members, 40 substitute members) up to the same level of knowledge on energy and climate policy.
The actual work of the Climate Assembly was originally supposed to last until June 2022. In the middle of the proceedings, however, the government considered the autumn as a closing date "politically more favourable", since the parliamentary autumn begins with the State of the Union address and the presentation of the budget: two dates that would enjoy "the full attention of the public".
Recommendations in Parliament
Now, by September 2022, the assembly was to formulate recommendations on what Luxembourg can do in its climate policy beyond the measures already anchored in the Plan national intégré en matière d'énergie et de climat (PNEC). The problem: the participants had only committed themselves for six months. Therefore, about a dozen volunteers continued the work while two members of the organising team took over sorting and writing the proposals. The proposals were then reviewed for feasibility by a staff member of the Ministry of Environment.
Members of the Climate Assembly presented their proposals to the relevant parliamentary committees on 4 and 5 October 2022. A plenary debate took place in Parliament on 25 October 2022.
Climate action plan updated
On 18 April 2023, the government presented corrections to its climate action plan. Compared to the previous plan, it remains that carbon emissions are to be reduced by 55 percent by 2030. The share of renewable energies is to be increased to 35 to 37 percent - instead of the 25 percent currently planned. Energy efficiency is to be improved by 44 percent - currently the PNEC envisages 40 to 44 percent. From the Climate Assembly the idea of phasing out fossil-fuelled heating systems has been adopted - in a first phase with a corresponding support programme on a voluntary basis.
Prime Minister Bettel underlined the "impressive work" of the 100-member body. 57 measures will be retained by the government for the new version of the PNEC - in 19 cases, existing measures will be strengthened, five new measures will be included in the preliminary draft of the PNEC. In the area of "mobility", these include the introduction of social leasing to support low-income households in switching to e-mobility, the development of a speed reduction strategy for motorised transport and the revision of registration taxes.
Citizens' Assembly "chaotic"
Participants, meanwhile, criticised the process of the Citizens' Assembly. Some participants were surprised by the communication block around the assembly: "They said it was a big project, also for the public, but nothing was published on the website and the contributions of the experts, who were filmed after all, are not accessible. I don't understand why," the newspaper "Le Quotidien" quotes an assembly member.
The whole citizens' assembly was criticized as chaotic. "Nothing was clear, the roles of each person, how it worked.... Today it is a bit better, but they are not prepared. The schedule keeps changing, the appearances of the experts are fixed at the last minute, during the debates you only find out at the last moment which speakers you will meet." "It's so mediocre what's being put in front of us. It's just amateurish," said another participant.
"I only saw white people"
Irritation was also caused by the fact that most of the experts who were to speak before the Climate Assembly were not neutral, but represented the interests of the government. For example, five of the nine speakers scheduled for the last weekend, which was dedicated to mobility, worked for a ministry or government agency.
The actual representativeness of the 60 citizens who were supposed to reflect Luxembourg's society is also questioned: "I only saw white people, no diversity," reported one assembly participant, "and in one whole weekend I didn't hear anyone speak Portuguese, for example."
To much work
Not to mention the level of education and personal commitment required, which de facto excluded a large part of the population: "The amount of work we are asked to do is very large, and in my opinion the documents as well as the whole process are not accessible to every citizen. And if you work or are a mother, it is almost impossible". That is why the number of participants in the online debates had also declined sharply.
Other assembly members disagreed with this account. The companies entrusted with the organisation of the Citizens' Assembly blamed the short time available for the preparation and implementation of the assembly for the problems.