Climate Assembly UK members deliberate options for path to net zero

28 Feb 2020

At this weekend’s penultimate meeting of Climate Assembly UK, assembly members will start work on the conclusions and recommendations the assembly will make to Parliament on how the UK can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.


The UK’s legally binding net zero emissions target will require action from Parliament, Government and all areas of society. The citizens’ assembly, commissioned by six select committees from the House of Commons, is considering what the UK can do to meet this target. More than 100 people, representative of the UK population as a whole, have been meeting in Birmingham to help Parliament understand the public’s preferences on the way forward.

At the second assembly weekend members separated into groups to hear evidence and policy options for reducing emissions in four areas of life: ‘how we travel’, ‘in the home’, ‘what we buy’ and ‘food, farming and land use’.

This weekend the assembly will discuss and decide on a range of recommendations on what the future should look like in, and on the way to, a net zero society and the different policy options that would get the UK there. For each topic, there are three sets of decisions the assembly members must reach:

  • First, the assembly will draft, discuss and prioritise considerations they believe Government and Parliament should bear in mind when cutting emissions in different areas of life.
  • Then, the members will discuss and vote on various future scenarios which respond to the range of evidence the assembly heard on reducing emissions in four areas of life, as well as the members own initial preferences discussed at weekend two.
  • Finally, the assembly members will discuss and vote on policy options for achieving those changes and rank them in order of preference.

All the votes taken by Climate Assembly UK will be conducted by secret ballot. At the end of the voting period, assembly members will have an opportunity to raise anything else they feel that Parliament and Government should consider on reducing emissions.

The speaker presentations at previous weekends as well as some Q&A sessions with assembly members have been live streamed so people can tune in to understand what happens in the assembly room. Given there are no speaker presentations at weekend three it will not be livestreamed. Further speaker presentations at the fourth and final weekend will be live streamed. Conversations between assembly members are never live streamed to ensure they feel able to have full and frank discussions. The presentations by previous expert speakers, which provide the basis for assembly members’ discussions, can be viewed on the meeting agenda pages.

The future scenarios and policy options that will be considered by the assembly were formed by the Expert Leads with input from the Advisory Panel. They reflect the broad range of views on these, as with the evidence heard by assembly members on weekend two. They also respond to initial discussions between assembly members at weekends one and two. For example, in response to members’ discussions on how to strike a balance between sustainable alternatives to air travel and not limiting how much people can travel, the Expert Lead focussing on the ‘how we travel’ topic introduced a new future scenario for consideration.

The speakers of Climate Assembly UK have passed on lots of information to the assembly and this weekend, we’ll be supporting the members to discuss and prioritise what they think are most important issues for Parliament and Government to focus on. In one of my areas - air travel, we’ll be presenting assembly members with five possible future scenarios which include different positions on mechanisms for reducing emissions such as the level of passenger numbers and the rate of improvement of technology and fuels. Reflecting the discussions of the assembly members in these scenarios has been a crucial part of my approach to formulating them. Through a series of group deliberations and individual votes, the assembly members will reach a set of decisions on what the UK should do to get to net zero by 2050, and how it should do it.

Professor Jim Watson, one of the Assembly’s four Expert Leads

Assembly members have a significant task ahead of them this weekend. The Expert Leads have ensured that members have the balanced, accurate and comprehensive information they need to make their decisions. Now we need to make sure that all members feel their voice is heard in reaching the assembly’s recommendations. It’s vital that the assembly can clearly express views on how the UK should get to net zero and that assembly members have the space to add anything else they think Government and Parliament should be considering as they cut emissions. This Assembly of more than 100 people has been chosen to represent the UK’s population as closely as possible. We use several different techniques during the weekend to understand what the assembly thinks, including ranking preferences and holding votes. What the Assembly doesn’t want will also be made clear through these processes. We can’t predict what the outcomes will be and it is really important that we don’t. From the first to the last weekend, the decisions will lie in the hands of the assembly’s members.

Sarah Allan from Involve, the public participation charity commissioned by Parliament to facilitate the assembly