Whatever happened to Citizens Assemblies?
About 4-5 years ago, the solution to climate change was apparently the Citizens Assembly (CA), a small but representative sample of the general public to show us the way forward. However, both climate science and low carbon solutions are complex, so each CA needed briefing by a series of experts – and according to a couple of experts who have taken part in CAs, the process went a bit like this:
CA Organiser: Thank you everyone for giving up your time. Here are the experts we’ve brought along to help guide you in this important task.
Experts: Here’s the scale of the problem, here are the solutions we’d have to implement to solve it.
CA Members: Well, these guys are the experts, so we’d better do what they suggest.
CA Organiser: What a fantastic set of proposals we’ve got from our CA! Thank you all for taking part!
Experts: Er, why didn’t you just listen to us in the first place?
Of course this process typically takes 12 months while the city/region/world keeps emitting carbon as usual. I still have to hear a convincing justification for the time and effort involved, and now nobody seems to be talking about Citizen’s Assemblies any more (for climate change at any rate). I was criticised for asking “why?” when CAs were first in fashion, but I was clearly right to do so.
This is an emergency. Can we just stop doing stuff for the sake of doing stuff?