Climate Assemblies and Juries: A people powered response to the climate emergency

Leeds Climate Change Jury

With funding from the Place-based Climate Action Network (PCAN), an ESRC supported network that brings together the research community and decision-makers in the public, private and third sectors, Shared Future CIC has published a guide for local authorities and other bodies.

The guide aims to support local authorities and other bodies thinking of commissioning a citizens’ assembly or jury. It considers how such processes might address the climate emergency, what is involved and approaches to design and delivery.

There has been a flourishing of citizens’ assemblies on climate change in the UK, with many local authorities commissioning local assemblies and juries, often as a follow up to declaring a ‘climate emergency’.

Nationally, a citizens’ assembly on climate change commissioned by parliamentary select committees has completed its final deliberative weekend and will publish its report in September 2020. At the same time in France, President Macron commissioned a citizens’ assembly on climate change with formal power to shape policy.

What is a citizens’ assembly or jury?

Typically assemblies and juries bring together between 20 and 150 members of the public to deliberate for over twenty five hours. The members are randomly selected to a profile that reflects the diversity of the population the process is serving. After sharing ideas and opinions with each other and hearing from a range of outside speakers, the participants write a set of recommendations.

Depending on how they are designed and commissioned, these type of deliberative mini-publics can be a tool for creating public dialogue. Be used for identifying nuanced public opinion on a topic. They are useful for building consensus, for producing a set of prioritised recommendations or creating space for public engagement within policy making.

Lancaster and district Climate Change People’s Jury. Image © Shared Future
Lancaster and district Climate Change People’s Jury Image © Shared Future
When done well commissioning a citizens’ assembly or jury can be truly transformative for the commissioning body, the participants, and for the wider public.

They can create a robust mandate for politicians to take action. They can improve trust between citizen and government, produce better and fairer policies and act as a catalyst for better partnership working amongst the range of organisations that may have a role to play in addressing the climate emergency.