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Citizens' Assembly

Citizens’ Assembly

Need for local Citizens’ Assembly

The council has made a commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2030. What next? asks Julia Hilton from Hastings Green Party. Back in February – thanks in part to pressure from the local Green Party and their open letter calling on the council to declare a climate emergency – Hastings Council committed to making our town carbon neutral by 2030. The council has since appointed Maya Evans as ‘climate champion’ with responsibility for climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development. It has, however, allocated no money or resources to the task.

Image: Citizens' Assembly website

Image: Citizens’ Assembly website

In order to forge a city-wide consensus on the ambition, direction, and measures that are needed to tackle climate change, we ask the Council to commit to one of our key demands: a local citizens’ assembly, tasked with having a town-wide conversation about how we can achieve carbon neutrality in the next 11 years. Essential to the initiation of such a process is a commitment from both the local council and East Sussex County Council to act on the recommendations generated by the citizen’s assembly.

There is a growing recognition of the value of deliberative democratic processes to revive our democracy, model thoughtful and civilised debate, and engage local people in developing imaginative and achievable solutions to the climate crisis we face.

On the pier Photo Mark Hutchinson

On the pier Photo Mark Hutchinson

Extinction Rebellion, local and national, calls for nationwide people’s assemblies, but there is a role for smaller-scale local versions as well. Oxford City Council has already committed to holding a citizens’ assembly on the topic this September. In Texas, home of oil giants, a ‘mini public’ (a representative sample of the public) tackling the future of energy resulted in a call for investment in renewable energy, resulting in 1000 MW of new renewable-energy capacity.

A key principle of a citizen’s assembly is that people should be randomly selected,  but representative of the local demographic. This is what makes these assemblies so powerful: they bring together people from all walks of life, then help them to bridge divides, to find common ground – and ultimately, to develop recommendations that can command public support.

Youth climate strikers have rightly demanded that their voices should also be at the heart of these citizens’ assemblies.

Come to the Hastings Green Party meeting on 25 June (7pm at The Pigs’ Palace*) to start the discussion on how to generate a citizens’ assembly for a carbon-neutral Hastings.

Participants are presented with balanced evidence on the issue and hear first hand from key stakeholders with different views and perspectives. Realistically, the assembly we have in mind would probably hold nine evening meetings to cover learning about the topic, questioning expert witnesses, deliberating, and coming to a decision.

Participants would be paid a nominal fee in recognition of their contribution and to help ensure that finance is not a barrier to participation. An independent governance and oversight panel would meet regularly to check the legitimacy and robustness of the process. They would also help select experts to give evidence to participants, ensuring balance in the information presented.

This process has been used in many areas and almost always the citizen’s group involved continues to be active in promoting the ideas generated from the assembly process. While it is a relatively small segment of the population, wider input can be generated through media coverage, use of local radio-station, phone ins and a big public launch of the final recommendations.

Electoral Reform Society

Electoral Reform Society

Research by the Electoral Reform Society show that over two thirds of the public want politics to be fairer, more honest and cooperative. This is one way to get there. Citizens’ assemblies require time, money and commitment, but they can have huge value in building consensus on the challenges we face and putting pressure on politicians to act.

Citizens’ Assembly website.

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Image: Citizens' Assembly website

Come to the Hastings Green Party meeting on 25 June (7pm at The Pigs’ Palace*) to start the discussion on how to generate a citizens’ assembly for a carbon-neutral Hastings. The project needs cross-party support so, whatever your political leanings, please come along and join the debate.
 
Maya Evans supports the idea and will also be taking it to local Labour branches over the coming months.

* Change of venue: from White Rock Hotel: 17.35pm on 12 June 2019

Posted 15:49 Wednesday, Jun 12, 2019 In: Politics

5 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Bea

    Two initiatives that would cost very little:
    1) A transport policy that really works on walking and public transport (especially buses). Some cities have put resources into regular buses 7 days a week and including evenings- Hastings should take a lead on this.
    2) Working with renewable energy companies to set up a programme of domestic energy generation where a house, flat or garden could be the site of a small wind turbine or vertical solar panels on walls facing more or less South. Much more viable than panels on roofs, most of us don’t own a roof or it faces the wrong way! But many of us have walls… And we are wasting all the wind and sun we get on the coast.
    Wouldn’t it be nice if this became part of the accepted external furniture of buildings, just as aerials and satellite dishes have?

    Comment by Bea — Friday, Jun 14, 2019 @ 12:37

  2. Bea

    Two initiatives that would cost very little:
    1) A transport policy that really works on walking and public transport (especially buses). Some cities have put resources into regular buses 7 days a week and including evenings- Hastings should take a lead on this.
    2) Working with renewable energy companies to set up a programme of domestic energy generation where a house, flat or garden could be the site of a small wind turbine or vertical solar panels on walls facing more or less South. Much more viable than panels on roofs, most of us don’t own a roof or it faces the wrong way! But many of us have walls… And we are wasting all the wind and sun we get on the coast.
    Wouldn’t it be nice if this became part of the accepted external furniture of buildings, just as aerials and satellite dishes have?

    Comment by Bea — Friday, Jun 14, 2019 @ 12:37

  3. Chris Smith

    I feel there is a lot of small issues that could be addressed by this type of assemble, however it must never be a back door entry to the elected Council by other political parties. It is also harder for people in full time employment or have family commitments to participate in this type of experiment. I also think it should be set up without the Councils help to maintain independents.

    Comment by Chris Smith — Friday, Jun 14, 2019 @ 11:32

  4. kendal

    i agree with this approach but where will the money come from? excellent examples of this are The Zapatista movement in mexico that now control the Chiapas region by public autonomous regions. also Switzerland has had a public-defined political system from 1879 (if my memory serves me at this point) – there, if a citizen doesn’t like a law or practice and can get 50 supporters, the government are obliged to re-assess it. other movements such as La PAH in Spain, moved against government and bankers to prevent thousands of people losing their homes, this is now an international movement spreading across Europe and Africa and changing laws. all due to everyday concerned citizens.

    Comment by kendal — Thursday, Jun 13, 2019 @ 08:34

  5. kendal

    really? well repeated appeals to use an underground system (already used in Spain) to enable all sea front residences to be able to recycle waste met with a dogmatic and emphatic NO!

    Comment by kendal — Thursday, Jun 13, 2019 @ 08:25

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