Guildford citizens assembly
Citizens assemblies have proven an effective way of finding solutions to issues that have become politically deadlocked, They remove party political bias, and the effect of corporate influence, the two largest obstacles to delivering genuine solutions to our biggest problems.
This form of deliberative democracy gives local residents a say in how policy is formed, citizens assemblies ensure increased democracy, and re-engage voters disenchanted with the current political system.
Citizens assemblies have been employed successfully in Ireland to resolve the deadlocked issues of abortion and gay marriage, and in Poland on LGTBQ rights and flood prevention measures.
The process uses sortition to randomly select a demographically representative subset of a town, city, or country. For example, if a town has 52% female to 48% male residents, and 15% BAME residents, these figures are translated into the demographic make-up of the assembly. The participants are paid for their time, to ensure that everyone selected can attend.
In a citizens assembly focusing on the climate crisis, the participants are presented with a baseline of emissions. The sectors (eg. transport, energy, etc) which are causing most emissions, or which can be most vastly improved, are identified, and the participants are then invited to select individuals or organisations with expertise in solutions in these fields.
Using deliberative democracy like this has proven to remove media bias from participants decision making and allow them to make informed decisions based purely on the objective evidence presented.This typically results in participant making decisions for the greater good, rather than on tribal or party political biases.
Camden council - the highest ranking London borough in the Friends of the Earth climate council rankings - has used the citizens assembly process to deliver a 17-point climate action plan, and the process is being rolled out in Leeds, Oxford, Croydon, and in Scottish parliament.
The current petition in Guildford calls on Guildford Borough Council (GBC) to instruct a binding citizens assembly on the climate emergency, and follow Camden's lead in writing policy from the results. This is much needed, as since July 23rd 2019 when GBC declared a climate emergency, nothing concrete has been done to tackle climate change. Instead, the council has formed a committee with no powers, called the Climate Change Innovation Board (CCIB). The title alone gives a clear indication of how insufficient this is, given the many reports released by various research centres demonstrating the unnecessary and woefully inadequate approach of using new tech and innovation to reach zero carbon.
To support this petition Extinction Rebellion Guildford is hosting a talk with climate change expert and deliberative democracy organizer Lucy Stone (fellow of CUSP, Agulhas, and Royal Society of Arts). All Guildford Borough Councillors, including the CCIB members have been invited. The new look council was elected on a platform of increased transparency and democracy, so we would expect them to attend and support the call for enhanced democratic decision making within the borough. Tickets are available for free.
You can read up on citizens' assemblies in more detail on our resources page.