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Select Committees announce plans for Citizens' Assembly

20 June 2019

Six select committees of the House of Commons (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Environmental Audit; Housing, Communities and Local Government; Science and Technology; Transport; and Treasury) have today announced plans to hold a Citizens' Assembly on combatting climate change and achieving the pathway to net zero carbon emissions.

The announcement of a Citizens' Assembly, likely to begin in the Autumn, follows the Prime Minister's commitment last week to an ambitious new target for the UK to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. 

The Citizens' Assembly is designed to explore views on the fair sharing of potential costs of different policy choices and is intended to provide input to future select committee activity and will inform political debate and Government policy making.

Chair's comments

Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said:

“The Prime Minister's commitment to the UK setting a net-zero target for carbon emissions by 2050 is welcome; the job now is to get on with mapping out the path to achieve it. This isn't a challenge for just one Parliament, one political party, or one generation; to achieve net-zero by 2050 we need to build cross-party and cross-generational support for the short-medium-and-long term policies and actions needed to deliver it.

“Net-zero presents the UK with a golden opportunity to deliver environmental and health benefits, new jobs, sustainable green industries and export opportunities. But the UK won't play its part in helping to save our planet or enable us to reap the benefits unless there is a co-ordinated, cross-departmental effort from the Government, together with buy-in from the public for the measures needed to achieve this ambitious goal.

“The Citizens Assembly announced by six Select Committees today will give an opportunity for public input into the climate change debate. It will also help to provide committees with a clearer insight into the public's views on the fair sharing of the potential costs of different policy choices and how we can best meet them It's clear that meeting the net-zero target will involve all parts of our economy, from, for example, heating our homes, electric vehicles and decarbonising transport, to energy infrastructure, green finance, and low-carbon goods and services. I hope the Citizens Assembly will demonstrate that, when all is considered, there is strong public support – even demand -  for the Government to take the action necessary to deliver the benefits of net zero by 2050.”

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark said:

“Ending our contribution to climate change can be the defining decision of our generation in fulfilling our responsibility to the next, but it will require the effort of a generation to deliver it. Governments and political parties of all colours will need to work with the public, both young and old, and all sectors of business and society to deliver on the Prime Minister's commitment to the UK cutting carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. I welcome the Citizens Assembly launched by six Select Committees today; initiatives to engage the public will be vitally important to appreciating the challenges of getting to net zero and giving people a say in shaping the future policies to achieve the target.”

The Committee on Climate Change's (CCC) recent report highlighted a range of different policy and consumer choices and is likely to form the basis of the Citizens' Assembly discussions.

The Assembly will take place over a number of weekends in the autumn/winter of 2019. The Citizens' Assembly will produce a report shortly after the conclusion of the sessions. Committees will be able to use the findings of the Report and take evidence directly from Assembly participants.

The Committees will also be examining ideas to engage public views online on the policies needed to achieve net-zero. The Committees' work with the Citizens' Assembly is supported by POST, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

The Committees will be seeking a partner(s) to organise and help deliver the Citizens' Assembly. The successful contractor will work closely with Committee staff and POST on the preparation of background learning materials, the identification of expert and stakeholder speakers, and the topics and questions to be addressed.

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 (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity, social class) and sometimes relevant attitudes (e.g. preferences for a small or large state).

Citizens' assemblies give members of the public the time and opportunity to learn about and discuss a topic, before reaching conclusions. Assembly Members are asked to make trade-offs and arrive at workable recommendations.

Citizens' assemblies, and other similar methods, have been used in the UK and other countries – including Australia, Canada, Ireland, and the United States – to address a range of complex issues.

Select Committees have used Citizens assemblies in their work previously. For example, the Health and Social Care Select Committee and the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee commissioned a Citizens' Assembly as part of their joint inquiry into the long term funding of adult social care.

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee activity on climate change and net zero

The BEIS Committee has recently held evidence sessions (on Tuesday 18 June and Wednesday 8 May) with witnesses including Extinction Rebellion, WWF, Committee on Climate Change and other stakeholders on the net zero target and actions needed to achieve net zero emissions. The hearings are part of the Committee's ongoing work on the Clean Growth Strategy and complement its current inquiries on financing energy infrastructure and on energy efficiency. The Committee has also carried out inquiries on Carbon Capture Usage and Storage and on Electric Vehicles

Further information

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