Parliamentary Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change – A first step, but a devastating missed opportunity

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We’re pleased that 30,000 people will be receiving a letter in the post inviting them to take part in a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change. We hope they respond so that they have a chance of participating in this important Citizens’ Assembly. 

As Extinction Rebellion welcomes this first step, unfortunately we have some serious concerns some of which we’ve already set out. To be clear, this is not the Citizens’ Assembly that Extinction Rebellion is demanding – Our third demand is for Government to be led by a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate and Ecological Justice. Check out our Guide to Citizens’ Assemblies here and watch our film.

“This is a great first step towards real democracy in the UK, an important opportunity for ordinary people from across the UK to learn the truth about the impacts of the climate and ecological emergency, and discuss how to address it,” said Linda Doyle, Extinction Rebellion’s Citizens’ Assembly spokesperson.

“But waiting 30 years to reach zero net carbon emissions is a death sentence to people around the world and in the UK – it gives us a higher chance of breaching irreversible tipping points as the climate breaks down and it only serves short term ‘business as usual’. 

“We will need many more Citizens’ Assemblies in order to give the UK public a proper chance to design the future they want for themselves, their families and communities. Getting input from the public is absolutely essential since it’s all of our lives on the line.” 

Some concerns:

  • The date. We are devastated that this Citizens’ Assembly will only be addressing how to reach net zero emissions by 2050. We acknowledge this is currently the UK’s target and that this particular Citizens’ Assembly wishes to address existing policy. 
  • We would urge the organisers to ensure that the members of the Citizens’ Assembly are presented with evidence as to why 2050 is inadequate. Currently, we’re on track for 4-6 degrees of warming within this century. Last time the planet warmed by 5 degrees, 96% of species died. Humans will not survive. 
  • This Citizens’ Assembly is advisory, toothless in other words. While we undoubtedly welcome it, the Citizens’ Assembly is being commissioned by six parliamentary select committees (small groups of MPs that have an advisory role). The Government is free to ignore the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly. 
  • The Citizens Assembly must be founded in climate and ecological justice. This means that countries from the global south and people who are not well off in the UK must not be made to bear the costs of change. And change must be in alignment with a thriving natural world. Biodiversity loss and the denuding of our air, water and soil must be tackled at the same time and most definitely not worsened in an attempt to tackle the climate crisis.
  • Where is the select committee representing DEFRA? Why are they not involved in this? We understand the six select committees have reached out to them, yet they were not interested in participating.
  • Extinction Rebellion demands a Citizens’ Assembly that is endorsed by government and has real decision-making power. Extinction Rebellion is calling on the government to state what it will do with the decisions made by the select committees’ Citizens’ Assembly.
  • More questions that answers at this stage. Will there just be a debate on the Assembly’s decisions? Will Government commit to implementing the Citizens’ Assemblies recommendations within a specific time frame? And commit to implementing decisions that have a high percentage of support?

Notes to Editors:

About Extinction Rebellion:

Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and abrupt, runaway climate change. Societal collapse and mass death are seen as inevitable by scientists and other credible voices, with human extinction also a possibility, if rapid action is not taken.

Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.

Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:

  • Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  • Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  • Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

What Emergency? | Extinction Rebellion in Numbers |This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook | What is a Citizens’ Assembly?

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About Rising Up!

Extinction Rebellion emerged from the Rising Up! network, which promotes a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximises well-being and minimises harm. Change needs to be nurtured in a culture of reverence, gratitude and inclusion while the tools of civil disobedience and direct action are used to express our collective power.

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