Saving energy and expanding alternative energies, alternative supply routes for food, protecting the mental health of citizens, holding crisis winners accountable and more sustainability - these are the recommendations of the Arnsberg Citizens' Jury "Tackling the energy crisis together". Its results were presented to the public on 3 December 2022.
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis, the environmental crisis, the Ukraine crisis and the resulting energy crisis, the city of Arnsberg decided to have the city's first citizens' jury discuss the topic of the "energy crisis". "The effects of the energy crisis affect us all and present us with many questions and challenges. That is why we want to talk today about what we can do very concretely to improve the situation for the people of Arnsberg," Mayor Ralf-Paul Bittner had explained at the meeting of the citizens' jury on 12 November 2022.
27 citizens' jury participants
The citizens' jury was attended by 27 randomly selected residents of the town of Arnsberg. As part of the random selection process, the citizens' jury was composed according to the criteria of gender, age, net household income, household size and districts in such a way that it represented a good image of the town's population.
In the opinion of the citizens' jury participants, the energy crisis poses central challenges to society and thus also to the city of Arnsberg. The energy crisis is an existential crisis. It deprives many people of the financial security to make a living, as the general price level is rising. In addition, the secure supply of energy and food is at risk.
Mental health and cohesion at risk
The uncertainties also affect the mental health of the population. Different levels of concern could promote the division of society. The energy crisis also highlights the need to save energy. In order for society to consume less energy, awareness and acceptance of energy-saving measures must increase.
In order to ensure the livelihood security of citizens, the citizens' jury recommends, among other things, that public space and public buildings be increasingly used for the development of renewable energies. In view of the increased food prices, alternative ways of supply should be strengthened, for example by planting vegetables and fruit in public green spaces. In addition, farms that want to establish the concept of "solidarity farming" could be promoted. In addition, more community gardens should be established in the urban area so that people can partially provide for themselves at low cost.
Slow down rents, reduce fees
To ensure citizens' ability to pay, rent increases should be slowed down and fees, e.g. for daycare or school meals, should be reduced. In order to protect the mental health of citizens, the citizens' jury proposes that more street workers be employed to actively support people in need of help and to distribute information, e.g. on how to save energy. Street workers should systematically target the poor, the elderly and other vulnerable groups, including home visits. The work on the street should be complemented by a permanent institution such as a citizens' office, which should offer assistance.
In order to maintain or regain society's trust in politics, the latter should hold the winners of the crisis more accountable, e.g. energy companies or other companies that tend to profit. Furthermore, the economy should be obliged to save resources, e.g. packaging and energy. At the same time, start-ups and companies in need can also be promoted and alternative forms of economy, such as unpacked shops, can be supported.
Energy crisis is a task for society as a whole
All in all, the energy crisis is a task for society as a whole, according to the citizens' jury members, which is why the commitment of citizens is needed in addition to adequate policies. Politics should promote this commitment, for example, by setting up a citizens' fund to support Arnsberg citizens in need. Money could be collected for the fund through fundraising campaigns.
In order to save energy, the citizens' jury suggests reducing the lighting of streets and buildings. Where light is necessary at night, motion sensors could dim lights or switch them off when no one is present. Public transport should be made more user-friendly, e.g. through a citizens' bus, on-demand citizens' taxi or the expansion of ride-sharing services. Local transport services should also be coordinated with large commercial enterprises and tailored to their needs.
Offer app, raise awareness
In order to reduce commuter traffic between home and work, it could make sense to increasingly develop co-working spaces in the city. To ensure that people take advantage of the offers, they should be made easier to book via an app and publicised through advertising.
In order for citizens to accept and support measures to deal with the energy crisis, the citizens' jury believes it is necessary to raise general awareness of austerity measures. Campaigns and better access to information could contribute to this, as well as free energy saving courses. New habits and behaviours need to be learned, e.g. repairing products. This could be promoted through repair cafés or sewing meeting points. Community enterprises such as citizen energy cooperatives can increase the acceptance of renewable energies.
"Commitment of the participants very impressive"
Kirsten Heckmann, head of the mayor's office of the city of Arnsberg, was impressed by the work of the citizens' jury: "The personal commitment of the participants was very impressive, the atmosphere was really good throughout. We would like to thank each and every one of them for their contribution on this day and beyond! We are already very much looking forward to all further developments."
The ideas, recommendations and results of the citizens' jury have been presented to the Arnsberg city council at its next meeting on 8 December 2022. The council will later decide on the implementation of the citizens' proposals.
Participants rate citizens' jury positively
The citizens' jury on the energy crisis was rated very positively by all participants in a survey. Above all, the citizens liked the fact that they had the opportunity to discuss an issue very constructively with "complete strangers" and to work out solutions. All participants would recommend other citizens to take part in a citizens' jury.
The Arnsberg Citizens' Jury should take place regularly in the future and focus on relevant topics for Arnsberg's urban society. "Once a year would be nice," said Mayor Ralf-Paul Bittner during the presentation of the jury results.