The Climate Assembly UK in 2020 was a brilliant effort - our thanks to all those involved. But it was organised independently by several parliamentary committees without support from the Government. There was no obligation on Parliament to debate its findings (many weren't), and very little publicity. One of the main advantages of a citizens’ assembly is that it helps the public to engage in the process. If no-one knows about it, its ability to move the national debate forwards is limited. What's more, this assembly was not allowed a say on the most important decision of all - on how quickly we need to reduce emissions. It was also relatively small with only 108 members.
But it showed that this process can work, and work well. Leading Conservative Alok Sharma has spoken out very favourably about the Climate Assembly UK.
So the process needs to be repeated at a larger scale, and this time with the full backing of Government along with prime time television coverage.
Six parliamentary committees jointly commissioned the Climate Assembly UK (CA UK) in 2020. This was a worthy attempt, but without Government engagement, CA UK’s remit fell well short of the scale and scope required to address the climate and ecological emergency. In particular:
- the Assembly wasn't allowed a say on how quickly we need to cut emissions;
- there was no obligation for recommendations to be debated by parliament and a large number were simply ignored;
- members were tasked with identifying a pathway to the UK’s 2050 net zero target with no mandate to question the target itself; and
- the assembly was focused only on the climate and not called upon to consider adaptation or biodiversity, when as we know, the crises in climate and nature are inextricably bound together and need careful joined-up thinking before action is taken.
A great new BBC documentary follows some of the ordinary members of the public that took part in the assembly, interviewing them as they wrestled with the big decisions on how we should respond to climate change. Watch it here on BBC iPlayer.