A European exploration on how citizens can help us strengthen democracy and fight climate change

Our parliamentary democracies have fallen short in solving one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century: climate change. The dominance of party politics, short-term thinking, the commercial lobby of multinationals and polarization has not only lead to insufficient climate policies but has also weakened our democracies -sparking civic protests all over Europe. Meanwhile, a growing number of European examples with Climate Citizens’ Assemblies have demonstrated how a group of randomly selected citizens offer more inclusive decision-making, reach more effective solutions to complex challenges as climate change, and receive more public support for their policy recommendations.

From April – September 2021, Pakhuis de Zwijger and Bureau Burgerberaad, with the support of Extinction Rebellion NL and De Transitiemotor, join forces in the international project: Climate Citizens’ Assemblies: learning with, from and for Europe. Through LIVECAST sessions and the development of this public knowledge platform (“Dossier”), the project brings different European practices and key players together to exchange knowledge, enhance collective learning and come to concrete guidelines for effective and just implementation of Climate Citizens’ Assemblies.

Want to get in touch?
If you are actively involved in (the organisation of) a Climate Citizens’ Assembly in Europe, and want to get into touch about the project: please send an email to programmaker Charley Fiedeldij Dop (she/her) on charley@dezwijger.nl

Samengesteld door
Charley Fiedeldij Dop
Programmamaker Democratisering, Tegenlicht Meet Up's en WeMakeThe.City
In samenwerking met
Eva Rovers
Biographer, author and co-founder of Bureau Burgerberaad
Yadira de Jong
Tegenlicht Meet-Up’s en Climate Citizens' Assemblies
LIVECAST sessions

Join the conversation by tuning in during these 5 freely accessible, online conversations with keyplayers from Europe about the future of Climate Citizens' Assemblies.

April 28 | A gift to democracy: an introduction to Climate Citizens' Assemblies
May 19 | Designing for legitimacy: on representation, inclusive deliberation & public trust
May 26 | From people to politics: on mandate and political follow-up
June 23 | Depolarizing climate change: on polarisation and public support
Sept 8 | Climate Citizens' Assemblies: a guideline for successful implementation

The Climate Citizens' Assembly bookshelf

Do you want to know more about the topic, or do you want to organize a Climate Citizens' Assembly yourself? Our CCA team will bundle all our must reads and essential podcasts below.

Fight climate change

Even though we are ‘nowhere close to the level of action needed to fight global warming’ (according to a recent report by the United Nations), climate policy has become a polarising topic, sparking protests all over Europe -from the yellow vests movement in France to resistance towards wind turbines in The Netherlands. Radical change in the way climate policy is being developed is necessary, and Citizens' Assemblies offer a way out.

Various European countries are experimenting with Climate Citizens’ Assemblies: a form of deliberative democracy, in which a group of randomly selected citizens formulate recommendations for climate policy. Experience has shown that they often manage to come to better and more effective solutions. What is a Climate Citizens' Assembly, and how can it help fight climate change?

Group 565 Klimaatneutraal
Group 565 Klimaatneutraal
Make it inclusive

The 100-150 citizens that partake in a Climate Assemblies are chosen through a random selection process, offering an inclusive representation of society. By taking more different perspectives into account, the recommendations of Citizens' Assemblies often gain trust and public support.

What is key when setting up the selection process of a Citizens' Assembly? How can be made sure that everyone is able to participate equally throughout the process, despite age, gender, profession, cultural background and/or level of education? And how can a Citizens’ Assembly ensure its democratic legitimacy and remain connected to society?

Watch the LIVECAST
How to organize a Climate Citizens’ Assembly that is representative, inclusive and trusted by both society and politics?
Strengthen democracy

Climate change is not only a threat to our environment, but also to our democracies: it deepens inequality, fuels civil unrest and leads to political deadlock. The answer? Put citizens at the center of the climate policy making process.

The model of Climate Citizens' Assemblies offers possibilities, but which mandate do these assemblies hold? What political consequences are connected to its outcomes? And how can this model be added sustainably to our democratic structures and institutions, without turning into glorified public hearings?

European models, practices and experiences

Dive deeper into specific European examples of Climate Citizens' Assemblies (more information will follow soon)

Group 565 Klimaatneutraal
Group 565 Klimaatneutraal
Poland is one of the very experienced countries when it comes to Citizens' Assemblies on a local level. The first Climate Citizens' Assembly was held in 2016 in Gdánsk and initiated by Marcin Gerwin. It has since spread throughout the country. Poland has not yet organized a national Citizens' Assembly. Want to know more? You can read our interview with Marcin or watch the first LIVECAST in which he participated below.
In Denmark the first National Climate Citizens' Assembly has just finished. The assembly was commissioned by the Parliament, as it was written in their Climate Act. So far they seem to be the first country that had a Climate Citizens' Assembly commissioned by law. They do not have a formal mandate but - as it was brought into life by politician - there is a close relation with mutual trust between the assembly and national politics.
The Netherlands
In 2006, the Dutch Cabinet organized a citizens' consultation on the electoral system. The recommendation was not adopted at the time, but was incorporated into a bill in 2020. In 2014, a first citizens' deliberation was organized in Amersfoort, based on the model of the G1000 in Belgium. It was supported by the G1000.nu Foundation, which supports citizens in organizing a citizens' deliberation in many more places. In 2020, the 6th G1000 University took place, this time online. Currently, the farmer-citizen dialogue is preparing a G1000 Agriculture, you can watch our LIVECAST #3 'From people to politics' if you want to know more about that project. So far no mandate has been promised.
Ireland is considered by many to be a model when it comes to deliberative democracy in Europe, due to the successful experiment of the country with Citizens’ Assemblies between 2016-2018. At that time, 100 loted citizens came together to consider issues as referenda, climate change, and an ageing population. Their conclusions were submitted to the National Parliament, for further debate by the elected representatives. Untill this day, Ireland still continues with Citizens’ Assemblies, such as the one on gender equality that started in July 2019.
In Belgium the first "citizens' deliberation", was initiated by G1000 and took place in 2011-2012. There is now a citizens' initiative called Citizens' Parliament. This now calls upon the federal government to establish a Citizens' Council on Climate. The Citizens' Parliament is an initiative of a group of citizens, supported by a coalition of some thirty organizations and movements. In German-speaking East Belgium, deliberative democracy has been institutionalised with the establishment of a permanent citizens' council. The council consists of 24 citizens who are elected for a term of one and a half years. During that time, they can initiate three citizens' consultations with 50 participants on a subject they feel the parliament has not sufficiently tackled.
Budapest is just wrapping up its first Climate Citizens' Assemblies. It was set up and organized by DemNet, a medium sized grassroots organization and NGO. From the beginning one of their aims was to boost active citizenship and to promote dialogue. Inspired by examples in Ireland and Poland DemNet started focussing on citizens’ assemblies. In setting it up the assembly they received assistance from Marcin Gerwin, who we know from the Polish local citizens' assemblies. The Budapest Climate Citizens' Assembly was a succes, but they still have many obstacles to concur to make it widespread or national.
In Germany several local grassroots projects on climate citizens' assemblies are in motion. The first article provides an overview.
Frances national Climate Citizens' Assembly was asked to formulate socially just measures that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990. In June 2020, the council issued an opinion containing 149 recommendations. After Macron initially adopted 146 of the 149 recommendations, some setbacks have since been reported (November 2020) - Macron appears to be backtracking on another 7 recommendations according to FranceInfo and Reporterre.