Britain’s First-Ever Citizens’ Climate Assembly Generates 600 Ideas, Demands Local Government Action
In Britain’s first-ever citizens’ assembly on climate change, participants convened by Camden council in north London came up with rooftop solar, cutting fossil fuels out of local government developments, and 15 other steps their community could take to cut emissions and boost sustainability.
The assembly “brought together more than 50 residents and a team of climate experts to develop proposals that could be taken up by the council,” The Guardian reports. “The proposals focused on housing, transport, and green space, and included a community energy scheme to remove fossil fuels from home heating, widespread cycle lanes and car-free zones, and programs to ensure that all new homes in Camden are built carbon-neutral.”
Like this story? Subscribe to The Energy Mix and never miss an edition of our free e-digest.
In the course of the local process, “suggestions came from across the community, with local businesses and institutions such as the Roundhouse, British Museum, and University College Hospital collaborating to address Camden’s carbon footprint,” the paper adds. “Residents, workers, and commuters contributed more than 600 ideas through an online platform.”
The assembly also called on the city to form a permanent citizens’ group, combining experts and residents, to oversee local climate action.
The session was facilitated by public participation charity Involve, where Director Tim Hughes reported surging interest in citizens’ assemblies. “They’re really good processes for dealing with conflict and contested opinions on issues, and really help to bridge some of the divides we’re seeing in democracy and politics at the moment,” he said.
“Many of the problems that we’ve had on the climate and issues such as Brexit are because decision-making has been too remote and citizens haven’t had enough of a say,” agreed international environmental lawyer, veteran climate negotiator, and Greenpeace UK board member Farhana Yamin, a Camden resident who observed the session. “It’s ironic that the theme of Brexit was ‘take back control’, but actually this is what taking back control really looks like in practice—it’s citizens being given the information and being asked to decide.”
The Guardian says participants were “broadly positive” about their experience with the assembly. “The process of engaging people with the council, making people feel that they’re a bit more empowered at the community level, making people get together and talk to each other, I think those are all really powerful things,” said researcher Anna Pick. “I feel much more optimistic about Camden council’s power to do things and my ability to shape what they do.”
Climate Emergency Camden urged the council to translate the recommendations into action, warning that some residents “were cynical about the impact of the process,” The Guardian states.
“There will be a lot of very good ideas suggested by people, but the crucial thing is that these ideas will be acted upon rather than be forgotten,” said Hamid Reza Aghaei, an Iranian refugee living in Camden. “It’s very important that they’re followed up and put into practice.”
“We declared a climate emergency and that can’t just be a statement or a piece of paper, it has to be real action,” responded council leader Georgia Gould.