UK citizens' assembly on climate change goes online

The UK's first citizens' assembly on climate change will resume online this weekend after the previous gathering was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.


More than 100 members of Climate Assembly UK will take part in discussions via video conferencing on 18-19 April, and a further two weekends of online deliberations before the end of May.

The assembly has been tasked with advising parliament on how the UK should best achieve net zero emissions by 2050, with its recommendations due in the summer.

Members have shown sustained interest in completing their work, and the move online will prevent the risk of coronavirus infection after the March 20-22 meeting was postponed.

Assembly member Sharon, from Yorkshire, said: “It was disappointing that weekend four didn’t go ahead, but obviously we have to protect everybody’s health, so it was the right thing to do. 

“I am glad that it is going forward in some capacity and I think that doing it virtually is the best way to do this.

“I’m happy that we’re not going to leave the assembly hanging and that we are going to finish the job, and I hope that the results are then taken seriously by the government.”

The assembly was commissioned in June last year by six parliamentary, cross-party committees to give MPs an understanding of how the public thinks climate change should be tackled.

From 30,000 invitations sent to random households, more than 1,500 responded to confirm their availability, before a computer cut this down to 110 to produce a highly representative sample.

This weekend, the assembly will hear from a range of speakers on electricity sources, before discussing strengths and weaknesses, and voting on their preferences for achieving net zero emissions.

The final two online weekends will involve discussions on removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and will assess earlier work on travel, consumption, food, farming, land use, and homes.

Assembly members will also have the opportunity to discuss anything they wish to add to their report in light of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, said: “In order to achieve our ambitious plan for net zero emissions, coordinated action is necessary, not just between governments but also with businesses, specialist bodies and citizens. 

“Climate Assembly UK plays such an essential role in championing collaboration of this kind and I would like to commend everyone involved for this.” 


Image credit: Fabio De Paola/PA Wire


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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