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Climate Assembly UK—where are we now?

BEIS Committee findings on Climate Assembly UK

The Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee have published their report into the findings of the Climate Assembly UK, offering a damning assessment of the Government’s response to the Assembly and its engagement with citizens on the transition to net zero. CEE Bill supporter Darren Jones MP is chair of the Committee, which also contains a substantial number of Conservative MPs.

The report resoundingly states the positives associated with citizen engagement around climate change. While the UK has made positive gains in reducing emission in sectors such as transport and energy, a large proportion of emissions reductions needed to keep within 1.5°C warming are in areas that will have the most impact upon individuals. Decarbonising food and home energy will be key to achieving climate goals, with the Climate Change Committee (CCC) noting that behavioural changes will play a crucial role in the success of the net zero transition.

Climate Assembly UK was formed by six Commons committees to deliberate on potential pathways to achieve the Government’s net zero target, although it’s focus on net zero by 2050—alongside the omission of supply chain emissions—did not offer members a holistic view of the climate crisis. The Assembly ran for six weeks in early 2020, and was composed of 108 randomly selected members reflective of the UK population in terms of age, gender, geography and attitudes towards climate change.

Amongst a host of recommendations, the Assembly identified that continued public engagement and education was a vital component in the UK’s journey towards net zero. MPs from across the House praised the Assembly in a Commons debate and Kwasi Kwarteng MP (then Minister of State for BEIS) welcomed its recommendations stating “we completely agree with the spirit of the Climate Assembly’s recommendation on greater citizenship involvement”.

Over one year on, the BEIS Committee report states that while the Government accepted the Assembly’s recommendations, this has not been met by “greater education, information and engagement surrounding the topics of climate change and net zero.” Their assessment comes on top of the CCC and the Public Account Committee (PAC) having recently found that the Government’s progress on public engagement on climate has been inadequate (to say the least).

The BEIS Committee recommends, along with the CCC, that the Government sets out in its upcoming Net Zero Strategy plans for deliberative engagement on net zero policies through citizens assemblies, citizens juries and other methods—alongside a public education campaign. The Aldersgate Group supports this call, noting that Citizens Assemblies are a positive for business and provide the government with “licence to act” on climate policy.

The report lends substantial support to provisions within the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill for a Climate and Nature Assembly which—if enacted—would engage with the Secretary of State, the CCC and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee to formulate an emergency climate-nature strategy to be presented before Parliament.

Trialed across the globe on various issues, the CEE Bill Assembly would provide a clearer mandate for action from a demographically representative cross-section of the UK public who have undergone an in-depth learning process. The CEE Alliance welcomes the BEIS Committee report and calls on every MP to take note of its recommendations to engage the public further in achieving our climate and nature goals.

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