Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Climate activists are celebrating the sham political legitimacy of the government sanctioned British Climate Assembly, and other climate assemblies which are popping up around Europe.
Jury duty for global warming: citizen groups help solve the puzzle of climate action
By Cathleen O’GradyOct. 29, 2020 , 1:45 PM
The U.K. Climate Assembly is one of a growing number of similar gatherings popping up across Europe, many of them charged with addressing climate change and other science-heavy issues. A citizens’ assembly in Ireland that deliberated from 2016 to 2018 led to a referendum that legalized abortion and a government plan to quadruple its carbon tax by 2030. This year in France, an assembly made 149 climate policy recommendations, and President Emmanuel Macron has agreed to push for 146 of them, including making “ecocide” a crime and including climate goals in the French constitution. Spain, Denmark, and Scotland have announced their own upcoming climate assemblies, although they have been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. And at the regional and local level, dozens of citizens’ juries and councils have drawn up policies on climate adaptation, air quality, and environmental protection.
Over three weekends—and a fourth weekend forced online and stretched over three weekends because of the pandemic—the assembly listened not only to scientists, but also to representatives of interest groups such as Greenpeace and industry body Energy UK. The goal was to provide both impartial information and explicitly labeled opinions from advocates, says Chris Stark, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, an independent body advising the government. Assembly member Ibrahim Wali, a doctor from Epsom, says that although some members didn’t believe the scientists or think climate action was worthwhile, it was clear to everyone that they were not there “to argue about whether climate change is real.” The assembly’s clear task—identifying policies to reach net zero by 2050—kept discussions on track, he adds.
RANDOMLY ASSIGNING CITIZENS to positions of political power has a history stretching back to ancient Greece, where the Athenians used the practice to select magistrates and members of their representative Council of Five Hundred. But the architects of electoral systems in postrevolution France and the United States preferred a republican system of professional politicians—an “elected aristocracy”—over outright rule by the masses, Van Reybrouck says. “They were as much afraid of democracy then as we would be of anarchy today.”
Politicians also tend to overestimate the opposition of a vocal minority to some climate measures—such as onshore wind farms, she says. And they fear punishment at the ballot box, where citizens express their opinions about a multitude of policies at the same time: “Voting is such a blunt instrument.”
…Read more: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/10/jury-duty-global-warming-citizen-groups-help-solve-puzzle-climate-action
Although the British Citizen’s assembly was set up to appease Extinction Rebellion, I suspect British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is happy with the outcome.
“Citizens assemblies” appear to be becoming popular all over Europe with politicians who want to provide a veneer of democratic legitimacy to a process to push forward unpopular policies. In my opinion this is because politically naive citizens assemblies are much easier to manipulate than genuine representative democracy.
The UK assemblies contained a small number of people who were against climate action, a composition of views which allegedly matched the demographics of the British people. But “it was clear to everyone that they were not there “to argue about whether climate change is real.”.
Why was it clear to everyone some issues were not up for discussion? Because the assembly moderators set the agenda, of course.
The politically naive opponents of climate action on the assembly acquiesced to this soft coercion in a way which would never have happened in a legitimate parliament of politically experienced elected representatives.