81 per cent of Britons believe that nature is under threat and action is urgently needed to protect it. Therefore, a citizens' assembly for Conservation was held in the UK from November 2022 to February 2023. The idea: randomly selected citizens should jointly develop a plan to protect biodiversity. The results were published on 23 March 2023.
The "Peoples Plan for Nature" calls for access to nature as a human right, the urgent restoration of rivers, transparency from supermarkets and a cross-party commitment to farming for nature.
Among the top calls to action are also:
- All commercial and policy decisions to take into account potential impacts on nature
- An overhaul of current farming subsidy systems to prioritise sustainable and nature-friendly farming
- Greater government accountability through a permanent Assembly for Nature made up of NGOs, industry and public expertise
"It's been phenomenal what I've learned. It's my generation that’s done the damage. So I kind of thought of this as something only younger people were interested in," Pauline from Queensferry said as an assembly member. "What I've taken away from it is that I can make a change, too. We all can. It’s a very diverse group but this is our collective view and our voice and our opinion. And I hope that the diversity of views can be used to focus the people in power, whoever they are, at whatever level they are."
Because species extinction affects everyone, anyone interested had been able to take part in an online discussion on nature conservation since September 2022. Those interested were also encouraged to organise their own citizens' talks and citizens' meetings to discuss what they think the peoples' plan for nature should look like. There were posters and guides in English and Welsh.
The questions asked were
- What do you love about nature in the UK? What would you miss if it disappeared?
- Imagine it’s 2050 and nature in the UK is thriving. What is different from now?
- What exciting examples have you seen of people working together to restore and protect nature in the UK?
The nearly 30,000 online comments to these questions helped shape the citizens' assembly. This assembly brought together a randomly selected group of 100 people from across the UK between November 2022 and February 2023. The citizens' assembly had been put together according to the criteria of age, gender, ethnicity, origin and rural or urban residence in such a way that it was a reflection of the population. Among the participants were students, a retired farmer, a pub landlady, young immigrants, a biochemist, a gardener, an investment fund manager, a warehouse manager and many more.
Plan with different recipients
The participants were asked to consider contributions from the online debate and listen to conservation experts. Together they developed a set of recommendations and a plan for nature conservation in the UK. The Peoples' Plan for Nature will set out how government, businesses, NGOs and communities can protect nature.
The citizens' assembly was run by participation experts from Involve and the Sortition Foundation. Other partners were 89Up and the New Citizens Project.
Meetings over four weekends
The online participation and citizens' assembly aimed to ensure that the Peoples' Plan for Nature is rooted in the values, ideas and experiences of people from all parts of the country. Participants met over four weekends between November 2022 and February 2023. Two of these took place in Birmingham, the other two online.
"UK’s biggest ever conversation about the future of nature" was supported by the nature conservation organisations National Trust and WWF as well as the bird conservation organisation RSPB. The initiators of the citizen participation want to work with government, businesses, organisations and communities to implement the recommendations of the citizens' assembly after it is over.
Read more: People's Plan for Nature