Citizen Assembly on the climate area

Foto: Nomadic Julien

82 citizens provide solutions to climate change

The climate crisis calls for solutions that have both popular and political roots. The climate crisis is urgent – we do not have time to wait to get started and all actors in society will work hard for the next many decades.

 

Climate law

With the Climate Act comes a national citizens’ parliament and 99 randomly selected citizens were in August 2020 invited to work in depth with solutions to the climate challenges and give recommendations to the responsible parliamentary politicians. The Danish Board of Technology is collaborating with the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Utilitis on the climate citizens’ Assembly.

 

The process of the citizens’ Assembly

Over two weekend gatherings and six evening gatherings until March 2021, the group of completely different and randomly selected citizens, young and old, men and women, affluent and low-income, urban and rural, together must become wiser about the complex climate dilemmas. The Citizens’ Assembly will be assisted by a large number of experts along the way, and in March 2021 they will be ready with their recommendations to Dan Jørgensen ( The Danish Minister of Climate, Energy and Utilitis) and the Energy, Supply and Climate Committee. At the end of 2019, the DBT has prepared the concept for the Citizens’ Parliament, and in 2020 and 2021 will be responsible for planning, method, program and to facilitate the series of citizen gatherings.

 

Terms of the process

There are, of course, challenges to the settlement of the absolutely ideal citizen Assembly. This includes the timing to connect to the high-speed climate train as well as time and resources for planning and settlement. However, the Ministry and the DBT are initiating a climate initiative that is adapted to the conditions that COVID-19 offers us and creates a new and exciting framework for a representative section of the population to provide input to climate action plans and the green transition.

What was launched in mid-2020 as three physical weekend gatherings, was transformed into a purely online format for the Citizens’ Assembly gatherings in light of the autumn’s increased infection rates and new Corona Guidelines. Despite this change, the vast majority of designated citizens have agreed to participate in the work. The number of citizens who have participated in the first gatherings is 82.

 

Experience with citizen engagement

It is our experience from 30 years of work with this type of citizen engagement is that, it provides some solid and long-term bids for solutions even of difficult societal challenges. The Climate Citizens Assembly is the first national Citizens’ Assembly ever in Denmark. However, the working method and other deliberative democracy processes are not new in Denmark. Citizens Assembly as a method is a further development of other models of democracy called mini-publics, which emerged in the 1980s. One of the most widespread mini-publics is the Consensus Conference method, which was developed by the DBT and has since been used in many places internationally. In Denmark, the DBT for both the Parliament, regions and agencies has held lots of consensus conferences and citizen summits on everything from coastal protection, agriculture, health, genetic technology to tolls. Citizens ‘meetings, consensus conferences and citizens’ summits belong to the same category of the so-called deliberative democracy processes. The methods are really good for engaging citizens in making solutions to societal challenges, that are not easy to find a way out of. With citizen engagement, the citizens get co-responsibility for the solutions, while the final decisions of course remain with our elected politicians.