The Region of Zealand invites both citizens and politicians to discuss climate

In cooperation with The Danish Board of Technology Foundation, Region Zealand conducted a citizens’ summit on the future climate initiatives of the region. This was followed by a politicians’ meeting where the results of the summit were discussed. The Danish Board of Technology Foundation was responsible for planning, conducting and documenting both meetings.

How is the region to fulfil the international climate policy goals which Denmark has decided to accede to? By 2020, at least 30 percent of our energy usage should stem from renewable energy sources such as wind, sun and water. Our emission of greenhouse gasses is to be reduced by a fifth and the energy itself should be used three times as effectively as is the current case. The cheapest, most clean and climate-friendly energy is the one we do not use.

Transportation, households and agriculture has to reduce their rather large contributions; in total, these three have to cut their collective emissions by at least 20 percent.

While the oil is running out, it remains one the principal contributors to emissions of CO2 along with coal and gas. In Denmark, our emissions levels are so high that we hold the world record of CO2-emissions measured per capita. In EU and the Danish Parliament, the politicians all agree that we should work towards a society which is independent of oil, gas and coal.

On the 30th of October 2010 the Region Zealand conducted the largest citizens’ summit so far on the inclusion of citizens when drawing up future climate initiatives.

The citizens’ summit – we call on the citizens to speak

The 41 popularly elected politicians of The Regional Council sought the good advice of citizens on how to develop the region in a more climate-friendly direction. During the summit, more than 200 citizens were asked to contribute their own assessments and recommendations for further political consideration. This was done through electronic polls, where each participant would vote anonymously on a number of prewritten sets of questions and possible answers. The citizens were the key element of this day and by discussing points of views with each other in smaller groups at different tables, they each had to decide on what was the most important and right course of action in trying to meet the climate goals.

Furthermore, the citizens were asked to work together on articulating what they considered to be the most essential challenges when considering the climate efforts during the next 5-10 years and how the politicians were to handle these challenges.

The participants

More than 200 citizens from all over the region were given the opportunity to participate in the citizens’ summit. In order to make sure that the participating citizens made up a differentiated group, as representative as possible, those who received a personal invitation were randomly selected by a lot amongst all 820.000 citizens within the region. The final participants were selected from amongst the citizens who had accepted the invitation in order to insure that the final group of 200 participants reflected the varied regional citizenship as much as possible. Citizens from the 17 municipalities within the region were invited in accordance with the number of inhabitants in each municipality and of course, equally divided across gender.

The regional politicians participated in the citizens’ summit but in a different way than usual, as they were asked to act as neutral chairmen at each table throughout the day. This allowed for them to closely observe and listen to the citizens’ dialogue which they could then further discuss as the following summit for politicians. The regional politicians and the mayors from all 17 municipalities were invited to participate in this assignment.

A member from Region Zealand’s administration acted a neutral referent at each table.

A politicians’ meeting as a follow-up

On the 22nd of November 2010, a mere three weeks after the citizens’ summit, Region Zealand invited politicians from the Danish Parliament, municipalities and the European Parliament to a political meeting in Regionshuset, Sorø. Here, the politicians were to process the results from the citizens’ summit in order to decide on what they considered to be politically important for the strengthening of climate initiatives in the regional area.

After this political meeting was concluded, the results from the two meetings were send out by Region Zealand to everyone who participated in the meetings, all town council members within the region as well as to selected committees in Danish Parliament, ministers and the press. The two documents are the “Citizen’s Climate Catalogue” based on the citizens’ summit and the political response, “The politicians’ Climate Document”.