UK citizen’s assembly backs green recovery

The UK’s citizen’s climate assembly has urged the government to ensure support for economic recovery is in line with its net zero ambitions.

Pressure for the government to stimulate a “green recovery” following the coronavirus crisis has been growing – experts on the Committee on Climate Change called for climate investments to support recovery and jobs, whilst the International Energy Agency last week published plans for a $1trn per year investment over three years that would shift countries to green power and electric vehicles.

However, the backing of the citizen’s assembly could prove significant in the UK given the government’s reported fondness for developing messaging and policies based on focus groups.

Climate Assembly UK was commissioned by six cross-party select committees of the UK Parliament to explore how the country should reach its legally-binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 
Its 108 members are representative of the UK population, so their report on Covid-19, recovery and the path to net zero, offers a unique insight into how the public at large is feeling.

“It has become important for the government, parliament and business organisations to strongly consider a recovery approach that will not cause further harm to the planet,” said one member. “We discussed the coronavirus outbreak at the climate assembly and it was quite clear that many of the assembly members felt that this period should be taken as an opportunity to encourage a green economic recovery with a focus on promoting cleaner, greener lifestyles and an economy that prizes sustainability over short term benefits that would harm the planet.”

In a series of meetings, assembly members discussed whether they felt that steps taken by the government to help the economy recover should be designed to help achieve net zero. In total, 79% of members strongly agreed or agreed with this.

Meanwhile, 93% of assembly members “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that: “As lockdown eases, government, employers and/or others should take steps to encourage lifestyles to change to be more compatible with reaching net zero.” There was strong support for encouraging homeworking and changes to travel, with more incentives to cycle and a reduced need for business travel, particularly flying.

A full report will be published in September. However, the chairs of all six commissioning House of Commons Select Committees have written a letter to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, urging him to ensure the government takes the Assembly's views into account when developing policies to help the UK recover from coronavirus.

They wrote: “In recent months the UK public has demonstrated its capacity to respond positively and responsibly when they understand the risks posed to them by an invisible threat that demands collective action. We believe that a similar approach, based on securing public support for ambitious policies through open dialogue around the science, is a sound basis for the net zero journey.”

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