The citizens’ assembly on climate change moved online last weekend to complete its work on the UK’s path to net zero, with little indication that the virtual sessions have dampened the interest and engagement of assembly members.
On Saturday, assembly members heard broad evidence on the topic of where our electricity comes from and then broke out into groups to question each speaker in turn. Question topics ranged from the technicalities of low carbon electricity options to their estimated costs, and the topics of efficiency, sustainability and fairness were key considerations:
- What sorts of things can be done with decommissioned nuclear power stations?
- If biodiesel can be used in current diesel engines, what are the downsides of it?
- When energy is transported some of it is lost – is there a way to reduce this energy loss so we can make it more efficient?
- What is the lifespan of a wind turbine when corrosion is taken into account?
- Can biomass be grown in sympathy with other agriculture?
- How can the intermittency of wind and solar power generation be managed?
Assembly members then reconvened on Sunday morning for final group discussions and voting. Climate Assembly UK has two further weekends of online discussion and voting ahead to conclude its work (Saturday 2 May - Sunday 3 May and Saturday 16 May - Sunday 17 May). Climate Assembly UK was commissioned by six House of Commons Select Committees to explore public preferences on how the UK can reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The assembly has already considered the topics of how we travel, what we buy, in the home and food, farming and land use and will turn next removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Assembly members will also have the opportunity to discuss anything they wish to add to their report in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The presentations made to assembly members are available to watch on demand. As at previous weekends, the Q&A sessions in small groups were held in private to ensure assembly members felt able to have full and frank discussions.
All the votes taken by Climate Assembly UK will be conducted by secret ballot. Qualitative analysis of the assembly’s preferences on how to reach net zero by 2050, and the results of the votes, will form a report to be presented to Parliament in the summer.