A European exploration on how citizens can help us strengthen democracy and fight climate change

Our parliamentary democracies have fallen short in solving one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century: climate change. The dominance of party politics, short-term thinking, the commercial lobby of multinationals and polarization has not only lead to insufficient climate policies but has also weakened our democracies -sparking civic protests all over Europe. Meanwhile, a growing number of European examples with Climate Citizens’ Assemblies have demonstrated how a group of randomly selected citizens offer more inclusive decision-making, reach more effective solutions to complex challenges as climate change, and receive more public support for their policy recommendations.

From April – September 2021, Pakhuis de Zwijger and Bureau Burgerberaad joined forces in the international project: Climate Citizens’ Assemblies: learning with, from and for Europe. Through LIVECAST sessions, indepth interviews and the development of the public knowledge platform (“Dossier”) below, the project brought different European practices and key players together to exchange knowledge, enhance collective learning and come to concrete guidelines for effective and just implementation of Climate Citizens’ Assemblies. The outcomes of this European exploration can be found on a special online publication, where we share concrete insights and lessons for Climate Assemblies.

Want to (first) learn more about Climate Citizens’ Assemblies in Europe? Scroll down below to dive into our knowledge platform, check out our LIVECAST sessions, additional interviews, book- podcast and video-tips and explore the how/what/why of various European examples.

Want to get in touch?
If you are actively involved in (the organisation of) a Climate Citizens’ Assembly in Europe, and want to get into touch about the project: please send an email to programmaker Charley Fiedeldij Dop (she/her) on [email protected]

LIVECAST sessions and in-depth interviews

Join the conversation by tuning in during these 5 freely accessible, online conversations with keyplayers from Europe about the future of Climate Citizens' Assemblies. Also, dive into our special podcast- and interviews series, to learn more about various experiences, insights and reflections from Europe.

LIVECAST sessions:
April 28 | A gift to democracy: an introduction to Climate Citizens' Assemblies
May 19 | Designing for legitimacy: on representation, inclusive deliberation & public trust
May 26 | From people to politics: on mandate and political follow-up
June 23 | Depolarizing climate change: on polarisation and public support
Sept 8 | Lessons for climate democracy: presenting the outcomes

With contributions from
Follow some of the European keyplayers in the field of Climate Citizens' Assemblies
Eva Rovers
Biographer, author and co-founder of Bureau Burgerberaad
Art O’Leary
Secretary General to the President at Aras an Uachtaráin, Ireland
Marcin Gerwin
Specialist in deliberative democracy and sustainability; Center for Climate Citizens' Assemblies, Poland
Kathie Conn
External coordinator of XR UK Citizens’ Assembly Working Group
Priscillia Ludosky
Activist and initiator of the fuel tax petition that kickstarted the yellow vests movement in France
Yves Dejaeghere
Executive Director at the Federation for Innovation in Democracy Europe (FIDE)
Doreen Grove
Head of Open Government at the Scottish Government
Lars Klüver
Director of The Danish Board of Technology Foundation
Christoph Niessen
PhD Candidate in Political and Social Sciences at Université catholique de Louvain & Université de Namur
Ellen Maassen
Voorzitter van wooncoöperatie De Warren
Kathrine Collin Hagan
Senior project manager at the Danish Board of Technology
David Van Reybrouck
Cultural historian, archaeologist and author of a.o. Against Elections, Congo and Revolusi
Benito Walker
Vicevoorzitter Nationale Jeugdraad | Lid SER-jongerenplatform | Voorzitter Bureau Burgerberaad | Student Bestuurskunde | Oprichter Youth For Climate NL
Claudia Chwalisz
Leading work on innovative citizen participation at the OECD, author and expert on democratic innovation, deliberative democracy
Melinda Varfi
One of the lead facilitators of the Budapest assembly; Co-Founder at Rising.Eco
Dimitri Courant
PhD candidate in political science at the University of Lausanne and the University Paris VIII
Graham Smith
Chair of the Knowledge Network on Climate Assemblies (KNOCA); Professor of Politics at the University of Westminister
Éva Bördős
Managing Director at DemNet Hungary
Gabriel Pelloquin
Political Communications Officer at Germany's first Citizen Assembly on Climate Change
Sabine Schröder
Head of Unit Infrastructure and Society at the nexus Institute, Germany
Bernd Vetterick
Member of citizens' assembly working group within Extinction Rebellion Germany
Personal experiences, insights and reflections on various European Climate Citizens' Assemblies.
The Climate Citizens' Assembly bookshelf

Do you want to know more about the topic, or do you want to organize a Climate Citizens' Assembly yourself? Our CCA team bundled all must reads and essential podcasts and videos below.

Fight climate change

Even though we are ‘nowhere close to the level of action needed to fight global warming’ (according to a recent report by the United Nations), climate policy has become a polarising topic, sparking protests all over Europe -from the yellow vests movement in France to resistance towards wind turbines in The Netherlands. Radical change in the way climate policy is being developed is necessary, and Citizens' Assemblies offer a way out.

Various European countries are experimenting with Climate Citizens’ Assemblies: a form of deliberative democracy, in which a group of randomly selected citizens formulate recommendations for climate policy. Experience has shown that they often manage to come to better and more effective solutions. What is a Climate Citizens' Assembly, and how can it help fight climate change?

Group 565 Klimaatneutraal
Group 565 Klimaatneutraal
Make it inclusive

The 100-150 citizens that partake in a Climate Assemblies are chosen through a random selection process, offering an inclusive representation of society. By taking more different perspectives into account, the recommendations of Citizens' Assemblies often gain more trust and public support.

What is key when setting up the selection process of a Citizens' Assembly? How can be made sure that everyone is able to participate equally throughout the process, despite age, gender, profession, cultural background and/or level of education? And how can a Citizens’ Assembly ensure its democratic legitimacy and remain connected to the rest of society?

Watch the LIVECAST
How to organize a Climate Citizens’ Assembly that is representative, inclusive and trusted by both society and politics?
Strengthen democracy

Climate change is not only a threat to our environment, but also to our democracies: it deepens inequality, fuels civil unrest and leads to political deadlock. The answer? Put citizens at the center of the climate policy making process. But how, and with what kind of influence?

The model of Climate Citizens' Assemblies offers possibilities, but which mandate do these assemblies hold? What political consequences are connected to its outcomes? And how can this model be added sustainably to our democratic structures and institutions, without turning into glorified public hearings?

European models, practices and experiences

Let's make Climate Citizens' Assemblies work together! What can we learn from specific European examples and practices of Climate Citizens' Assemblies? Dive deeper by looking into the articles, videos, podcasts and books below.

European initiatives | Belgium | Denmark | France | Germany | Hungary | Ireland | Poland | The Netherlands | United Kingdom

Group 565 Klimaatneutraal
Group 565 Klimaatneutraal
In Belgium the first "citizens' deliberation", was initiated by the grassroots organisation G1000 and took place in 2011-2012. In German-speaking East Belgium, deliberative democracy has been institutionalised with the establishment of a permanent citizens' council in 2019. The council consists of 24 citizens who are randomly selected for a term of one and a half years. During that time, they can initiate three citizens' assemblies with 50 participants on a subject they feel the parliament has not sufficiently tackled. In 2020 a citizens' initiative called Citizens' Parliament was launched, which calls upon the federal government to establish a nationwide Citizens' Council on the Climate and ecological crisis. The Citizens' Parliament is an initiative of a group of citizens, supported by a coalition of some thirty organizations and movements.
In response to the protests by the Yellow Vests Movement in France, President Macron initiated a national Climate Citizens' Assembly (Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat). This assembly, consisting of 150 randomly selected citizens, was asked to formulate socially just measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030. In June 2020, the citizens' assembly presented its 149 recommendations to Macron. The president initially adopted 146 of the 149 recommendations, however since then only few of the recommendations have received political follow-up, mainly due to a reluctant parliament. There are many lessons to be learned...
In Germany several climate citizens' assemblies are taking place, most of them initiated by grassroots organisations. In December 2020 the grassroot organisation 'BürgerBegehren Klimaschutz' teamed up with Scientists For Future to call for a nationwide Climate Citizens' Assembly. They succeeded: in April 2021 German Climate Assembly started its work under the patronage of former German President Horst Köhler. Until 23 of June, 160 citizens from all over Germany will discuss how the climate policy goals set out by the Paris Climate Agreement can still be achieved. Throughout twelve digital sessions, the Climate Assembly will develop climate policy recommendations for Germany for the next years. On a local level there are several initatives for Climate Assemblies as well, for instance in Bonn and Frankfurt am Main. The citizens' initiative 'Klimaneustart Berlin' (Climate Restart) handed over more than 30.000 signatures to the House of Representatives in Berlin in December 2020, urging them to convene a climate citizens' assembly. A few months later, in April 2021, the Environment Committee of the House of Representatives agreed to organise a climate assembly in the German capital.
Budapest finished its first Climate Citizens' Assemblies early 2021 to help the local government to formulate its climate strategy. The assembly facilitated by DemNet, a medium sized grassroots organization and NGO. From the beginning one of their aims was to boost active citizenship and to promote dialogue. Inspired by examples in Ireland and Poland DemNet started focussing on citizens’ assemblies. In preparing the assembly they received assistance from The Sortition Foundation, Involve and Marcin Gerwin (see our article on the Polish citizens' assemblies). The Budapest Climate Citizens' Assembly was a succes; many of the recommendations found their way into the city's climate strategy. The next challenge is to make climate assemblies widespread in Hungary or even national.
Ireland is considered by many to be a model when it comes to deliberative democracy in Europe, due to the successful experiment of the country with Citizens’ Assemblies between 2016-2018. At that time, 100 randomly selected citizens came together to consider issues as referenda, climate change, and an ageing population. Their conclusions were submitted to the National Parliament, for further debate by the elected representatives. Because certain topics, such as laws regarding abortion and same sex marriage required constitutional change, referenda were held. Both topics were succesfully adopted. Untill this day, Ireland continues with Citizens’ Assemblies, such as the one on gender equality that started in July 2019.
The Netherlands
In 2006, the Dutch Minister for Administrative Reform initiated a Citizens' Assembly on the electoral system. Because of a change of governement, the outcome was not adopted at the time, but some elements were incorporated into a bill in 2020. In 2014, a first citizens' deliberation was organized in Amersfoort, based on the model of the G1000 in Belgium. It was facilitated by the G1000.nu Foundation, which supports citizens in organizing a citizens' deliberations. Currently, G1000.nu is preparing a G1000 Agriculture. You can watch our LIVECAST #3 'From people to politics' if you want to know more about this project. A coalition of Dutch grassroots organisations is currently rooting and lobbying to convince the government to organise a Climate Citizens' Assembly.