In October 2014 more than 1000 Citizens across Europe took part in the transnational event Europe Wide Views on Sustainable Consumption. The event was coordinated by the Danish Board of Technology, and in the Danish citizen consultation 111 ordinary citizens from all over the country participated in discussions and voted on various issues relating to sustainable consumption.
The consultation was a part of the Europe Wide Views. In each participating country, 100 citizens attended a day-long citizen consultation where they discussed and voted on issues relating to sustainable consumption. The participating countries were:
Austria, Bulgaria, Catalonia (Spain), Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Wallonia (Belgium).
The Danish meeting
EU Climate Commissioner Connie Heedegaard opened the Danish meeting. In Denmark, 100 citizens gathered at Axelborg in Copenhagen. The citizens had been invited to share their views on sustainable consumption and provide policymakers with important input to future political decision-making processes.
Sustainable consumption means that the needs of the current generations are fulfilled, without compromising future generations’ chances to fulfill their needs.
The consultation consisted of four thematic sessions:
- Introduction to Sustainable Consumption
- Shifting to More Sustainable Consumption
- Reducing Consumption
- Reducing Waste
And a Danish session, made in cooperation with the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries of Denmark, on animal welfare and food consumption.
Europe Wide Views on Sustainable Consumption was the last of three example projects to be held in the four-year project PACITA which is commissioned by the European Commission.
Why Citizen Consultations on Sustainable Consumption?
In free markets economies, consumption choices are viewed as a private matter for individuals. Governments are generally hesitant to intervene too much in their citizens’ private space. As a result, policies aimed at enhancing sustainable consumption tend to be focused on the production of goods and services, rather than on private consumption. Europe Wide Views engaged citizens in a discussion about broadening the policymaking surrounding sustainable consumption to include measures aimed at private citizens. Furthermore, it also wanted to discuss the different roles that citizens could play in increasing sustainability in society.
Europe Wide Views on Sustainable Consumption was based on the World Wide Views WWViews method, which combines simultaneous national face-to-face citizen consultations worldwide with a web-based transnational comparison of national results. The overall objective of the method is to strengthen the engagement of citizens in political decision-making processes. Citizens have to live with the consequences of policies. For that reason, their views should be taken into consideration.
The WWVs method has been developed by the Danish Board of Technology Foundation and the WWVs Alliance. So far, WWVs citizen consultations have been organized twice. In 2009, 38 countries took part in a project about global warming, and in 2012, citizens from 25 countries discussed and voted on issues relating to biodiversity.
The citizen consultations
All Europe Wide Views national citizen consultations followed the exact same format: A head facilitator and group moderators led the participants through a programme divided into four sessions.
Each thematic session was introduced by the head facilitator and an information video. After this introduction, the participants engaged in moderated group discussions with the purpose of giving all participants time to reflect and listen to other opinions. Each thematic session was namely ended with a voting session, where citizens individually voted on alternative answers to a different number of questions. The voting results were instantly reported on this website, so that anyone with Internet access could compare answers to the various questions across countries.
Making views heard
The World Wide Views method – or in this case the Europe Wide Views – didn’t end with the citizen consultations. In order to make the citizens’ views heard, the organizers will disseminate the voting results to national as well as European policymakers and stakeholders. On a European scale, the project will be finalized with a transnational policy report.