For a Climate Citizens Assembly for Scotland to enable rapid, just and deeply democratic decarbonisation
We call on the Scottish Government to establish a Climate Citizens’ Assembly by March 2020, to be briefed on the scientific evidence of the true level of the climate emergency, and to consider and propose a set of policies to tackle the causes of the climate crisis.
These policies must enable the critical economic and social transformations needed to radically accelerate Scotland’s existing plans for a just transition towards becoming carbon neutral, within the timeframe required by the latest science, in order for us to play our part in stopping runaway climate chaos.
Scotland can lead the world in creating a democratic process to show how every country can step up and deal with this crisis in a way which allows future generations to survive and thrive on this planet.
Who are we?
We are a growing association of citizens, campaign groups and organisations – including Extinction Rebellion Scotland, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Common Weal and Global Justice Now – who are deeply concerned with the lack of urgent action from the Scottish Government.
WHAT IS A CITIZENS' ASSEMBLY?
A Citizens’ Assembly is a group of people who are brought together to discuss an issue or issues, and reach a conclusion about what they think should happen. The people who take part are chosen so they reflect the wider population – in terms of demographics
– UK Parliament definition of a citizens’ assembly.
Citizens’ Assemblies are an established democratic process, bringing together a representative sample of ordinary members of the public, in a similar way to juries. They are supported by independent facilitators to deliberate fairly and responsibly to reach conclusions on specific issues. Their purpose is to study the options available to a city, region or country and propose potential legislation. Citizens’ Assemblies are becoming much more common as their worth is proven and have been used across the world, including by the UK and Irish Governments. The recent Irish Citizens’ Assembly led to the referendum that repealed Ireland’s ban on abortion.
WHY A CITIZEN's ASSEMBLY?
One of the greatest obstacles to politicians being able to combat the climate crisis within the existing democratic process is the fact that they need to ensure they are reelected, and so often can’t take the long term decisions needed that they may fear may initially alienate voters. Related to this is the power of corporations to lobby and influence politicians and parties in parliament. Political parties can sound as though they are keen to support environmental reforms, but then very quickly pressure from fossil fuel companies (through a media that their advertising supports) can mean that parties’ strong focus on re-election leads them to refuse to contemplate change on the scale and at the speed necessary. Clearly, established democratic practice has proved incapable of adequately addressing this situation.
A Citizens’ Assembly can be the solution to these problems. By insisting decision-making power in this area is handed over to a representative sample of the population, we are no longer locked into a political process that is incapable of dealing with the urgency of the situation. At the same time, we are deepening rather than abandoning the democratic process. By fully incorporating citizens into the democratic process, we are enabling those who traditionally haven’t been given a voice to assess solutions that might otherwise be overlooked in favour of established practice.
A Way Forward?
To be fully effective, the recommendations of the assembly would need to secure a collective, nation-wide commitment, starting with the government. In Citizens’ Assembly processes, governments have sometimes agreed to implement an assembly’s recommendations if there is a large enough majority for them in the assembly. Alternatively, parliamentary committees have been set up to consider their recommendations, or they have been put to the population in the form of a referendum.
In order to secure society-wide commitment to enact the recommendations of this assembly – and given the urgency and importance of the issue – we believe it would be wise to consider an innovative society-wide process to ensure as many people as possible engage with the proposed policies and commit to collectively undertaking serious action as soon as possible.
Those taking part in the Citizens’ Assembly will have a direct input on potential policy. Experience from Ireland, the UK and elsewhere in the world has shown that participants take their responsibilities very seriously, are willing to change their minds in light of expert evidence, and are willing to be innovative and bold. The assembly process enables us as a society to respond meaningfully to this massively complex issue with the aid of a properly deliberative process.
Corruption Proof & Vested Interest Resistant
Assemblies are guided by experienced, independent facilitators who ensure that all voices are heard equally. The process by which a Citizens’ Assembly is convened and facilitated makes it impossible for participants to use their membership for their own financial or political gain, or to be co-opted by the aims of other institutions. It also prevents the creation of an ‘elite’ group of decision makers and ensures that individuals with vested interests cannot hold power over others or disrupt the process.
For a Climate Citizens’ Assembly, it will be important that experts are chosen based upon their expertise and knowledge. This would avoid the appointment of individuals who may be interested only in subverting the process and conclusions of the assembly.
Proven track record
While the idea of a citizens’ assembly is not new, it has been adopted recently in a number of local, regional and national scenarios to help forge a path forward on divisive and convoluted issues. Citizens’ assemblies have been used in many countries and have often helped to tackle problems that have stumped national parliaments, or have been integral in the investigation and consideration of the work of committees.
Emphasis on Inclusivity
The aim of the assembly is to ensure that all participants can attend and contribute to the best of their ability. It is incredibly important that no financial barriers impair the process. To this end, expenses incurred by members – such as travel, accommodation and potentially loss of earnings – should be covered to ensure that participants are able to take part no matter what their circumstances. For a Climate Citizens’ Assembly, it will be important that experts are chosen based upon their expertise and knowledge. This would avoid the appointment of individuals who may be interested only in subverting the process and conclusions of the assembly.
WHY DO WE NEED ONE?
Climate Change is the greatest existential threat to humanity we have faced since the most heated moments of the cold war.
Politicians operate within a short-term electoral cycle which makes it extremely hard for them to take the bold action needed to deal with this threat. We need to enable them to create a different centre of action to powerfully influence and drive forward the needed changes. By taking the first step, Scotland would be setting both an example for other countries to follow as well as showing our willingness to seriously combat the impending emergency. Current governmental plans for action on climate change are based on what is thought to be ‘politically possible’. But when politics fails us, in the face of an existential threat, we need to change politics so that we can take action that is scientifically necessary.
The October 2018 IPCC Special Report is the most up-to-date and comprehensive explanation of the science of climate change and the implications it has upon the future of Earth. Their findings suggest that current voluntary pledges from governments put us on course for a 3°C to 4°C rise in global temperature; if we go beyond 2 degrees of warming, we enter an unknown zone, one which could mark a point at which biodiversity across the globe will fail to regenerate, basic grains and food sources will fail and whole populations will be forced into mass-migrations as extreme temperatures cause death, poverty and famine.
Down this road lies the eventual collapse of civilised society, and, if positive feedback loops occur within the climate system, (such as methane release from the melting arctic) we risk global warming spinning out of control, leading to the destruction of human beings and most other species. Bearing in mind that most of the real-world findings over past years have correlated to the IPCC’s ‘worst case scenario’, it is clear that now is the time when we can, and must, take action.
Extinction Rebellion formulate and broadcast the three demands, the third calls for a citizens’ assembly to be established to ensure action on climate change is dealt with seriously and competently.
25th January: A symbolic Climate Citizens’ Assembly is held in the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.
20th June: The campaign for a CCA for Scotland is launched at the doors of the Scottish Parliament.
How can you help?
Sign the Declaration
Obviously this is what it’s all about. We need as many organisations, institutions and hearts & souls behind this as possible. But don’t just register and leave it there. Please continue to support us as suggested here. Perhaps you could tell a friend or pop it on your social media?
help with running costs
We need financial support to aid us in gaining as much support for this proposal as possible. There is a lot of work to be done getting a project as ambitious as this to where we need to be, and money is a vital part of that journey. Monthly contributions or one off gifts are all greatly appreciated.
Do you have some skills and know how that could be useful? Or perhaps you can’t think of anything that springs to mind that would contribute, but you would like to help nonetheless…. well good news – the to-do list is endless. Get in touch using the button below, introduce yourself, and let’s get to work!
Spread the word
An easy and effective way you can help is to share this petition as widely as possible. Not only on social media, but also face to face. Use your voice and be bold. Be sure that when you tell people you ask those people to pass it on, and on, and on …
Also, write to your MSP. Use this template to get you started, but make it as personal as possible.