A popular initiative is underway in Italy to convene a randomly selected climate assembly. The initiators are taking advantage of the recently introduced possibility to collect signatures online. At least 50,000 signatures are needed for the parliament to consider the popular initiative.
"Since (...) the states have failed so far in the fight against climate change, we as citizens have to intervene and activate all instruments of participation," says co-initiator Marco Cappato. "With the online collection of signatures for the bill 'Citizens for the Climate', we want to establish a model of citizen participation in Italy that works worldwide: a randomly selected climate assembly". The first signatory of the proposal is Mario Staderini, a lawyer and activist who has been instrumental in introducing digital signature collection for referendums and popular initiatives.
"Italy needs a citizens' assembly"
Climate assemblies at national level have so far existed in Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Spain and the UK. Lorenzo Mineo, coordinator of the committee promoting the organisation "Politici per caso" (Politicians by chance), says: "Italy also needs a big citizens' assembly on environmental issues, as France did last year with the Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat, to push through a new agenda for the greatest emergency of our time: the climate crisis."
The draft law is based on the need to create a basis for dialogue between citizens and politicians. According to the proponents, randomly selected citizens' assemblies are a good way to strengthen trust in politics and at the same time to give power back to the people, who today are excluded from decision-making power. It has been shown that the recommendations of citizens' assemblies enjoy broad support among all citizens because they were formulated by their peers, by people who could have finally stepped out of the role of spectators in politics.
What the popular initiative proposes
The popular initiative for a climate assembly also proposes the general anchoring of citizens' assemblies in politics. It should be possible to convene assemblies by the government, parliament, regional and local councils or by collecting signatures from the population. Possible topics, the organs of the citizens' assembly and the criteria for the selection of participants are also specified.
In the provincial capitals, the major cities and the regions, citizens' assemblies are to be convened on a mandatory basis to discuss the elaboration of the most important political, programmatic, economic, financial and urban planning initiatives. At the national level, citizens' assemblies shall be compulsorily convened to discuss referendum issues in referendums on laws or constitutional amendments.
Secretariat for each citizens' assembly
A secretariat should be established for each citizens' assembly, consisting of a fixed group of experts and a variable group of citizens who come directly from the citizens' assembly and regularly supplement the secretariat. The tasks of the secretariat shall include forwarding the respective citizens' report with the recommendations of the citizens' assembly to the parliament and the government, which shall ensure its publication on its website. The Secretariat shall also disseminate the citizens' report through its own information channels, such as the assembly website. Parliament or government should decide within ninety days of the official publication of the citizens' report what to do with the citizens' recommendations. It should be possible to adopt, reject or change the proposals.