Citizens Assemble! Lambeth Council to empower residents to guide the response to the climate emergency
On Wednesday, the council announced that it will hold a citizens’ assembly on Lambeth’s response to the climate emergency – a bringing together of a randomly selected and locally representative group of people to hear evidence, discuss a difficult issue and make a series of recommendations on the way forward.
The citizens’ assembly will be independent and funded by the council. Its scope, in terms of policy and money, is set out before it begins and the council commits to act on its recommendations. The process is not run by the council, instead it is run from start-to-finish by an independent not-for-profit organisation, like Involve. The participants receive training on critical thinking and detecting personal biases. They hear evidence from a range of stakeholders and independent experts on the matter at hand before discussing the issue together extensively over a series of weekends and reaching a set of recommendations. The council will then act on those recommendations.
In January, Lambeth Council declared that we are in a climate emergency. They committed to act now and become carbon-neutral by 2030. Now Councillor Claire Holland, the Deputy Leader of the Council, is leading Lambeth to take the next step of involving everyone in the process of deciding how to respond to the climate emergency.
The announcement comes in the wake of the latest report from the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change, which concluded that we have 11 years left for urgent action to avert global climate catastrophe. It sparked global protests about the inaction of governments, who are failing to protect us against the threat of climate-driven societal collapse, food shortages, extreme weather and extinctions.
In April, Extinction Rebellion occupied five sites in central London for two weeks, and young people around the world are repeatedly going on strike from school to demand action now. The last Youth Strike for Climate saw 1.4 million young people take to the streets. In Lambeth, schoolchildren blocked Brixton road to protest and families gathered in Windrush Square, organised by Lambeth 4 a Cool Planet.
‘We hope that Lambeth Council will follow their words with actions and do so as soon as possible. This means commissioning an independent partner to scope and run the citizens’ assembly and committing to the arrangements of that partner. It means a commitment to fully resource the citizens’ assembly and promote it like our lives depended on it’. George Shirreff, XR Lambeth
‘The most important thing is that the citizens’ assembly engages everyone in the community. The climate emergency will disrupt all of us and we must all feed in to the response to it. With a process focused on representativity, the citizens’ assembly will ensure that everyone’s voice is fairly included and will help build a just transition for all.‘ Christelle Jolly, XR Lambeth
‘Last year we saw the Beast from the East killing the grape vines in Kent and seven unbroken weeks of sun; this is not normal. The last five years were the hottest on record and our natural systems are being distorted. The climate emergency is now, it’s here and it falls on us to respond with urgency and compassion.’ George Deacon, XR Lambeth