There is no doubt that, in order for the UK to achieve the legally binding target of net zero by 2050, there are going to be trade-offs and there will be winners and losers from that process. Every business and every individual will be affected in some way. The debate about leaving the EU has shown that issues such as these are difficult and divisive.
Tomorrow, the first ever citizen's climate assembly will take place. 110 people will gather together to begin deliberations about the best way for the UK to reach net zero. The assembly was selected to be a representative sample of the population. A mail-out was sent to 30,000 people from which 2,000 said that they would be willing to take part. These were further down-selected to 110 chosen by computer to reflect the general population.
The assembly was commissioned by six cross-party House of Commons Select Committees in 2019. At the time Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee said "We now need to set out a clear roadmap for the actions to achieve net-zero. It’s very clear that we will all need to play a part in meeting this target and that we all share a responsibility to future generations to do so. Finding solutions which are equitable and have public support will be crucial. Parliament needs to work with the people and with Government to address the challenge of climate change."
While the setting up of the assembly has been criticised for a variety of reasons, such as including those who are climate change deniers and the fact that its conclusions are not binding on Government, my experience in developing the policy that became the Green Deal has shown the necessity of being able to demonstrate public support for policies which may have a disruptive effect in the short-term but which need to be implemented for a longer-term gain. The citizen's assembly may prove to be the answer to this conundrum. If so, how many more are we likely to see?
A citizens’ assembly for climate change, convened over two months at a cost of £520,000, will discuss how to meet the government’s legally binding goal. The participants, selected to reflect the make-up of the UK population, aims to produce a series of non-binding recommendations for parliament about how to decarbonise sectors such as transport and housing.