Climate Assembly voices are an authentic addition to climate change debate

10 Feb 2020

‘What practical solutions are there to change our consumerist attitudes?’ and ‘Are manufacturers likely to produce goods where ease of maintenance/repair would reduce their profit margins?’ among questions asked by assembly members


During the second weekend of Climate Assembly UK, Assembly members have been delving into the detail of specific areas for reducing emissions: how we travel, in the home, what we buy and land use, food and farming. Speakers related their presentations to how we use energy, land and materials.

Despite Storm Ciara, the 110 members travelled from across the country, representing all walks of life, to play their part in the Assembly to inform Parliamentary scrutiny of Government action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

The assembly members have been hearing balanced evidence from speakers on the choices the UK faces before discussing them and feeding questions back to the speakers. Examples of the kind of questions they are asking are listed below.

Their discussions are part of the deliberative process which will continue during the third weekend (Feb 28-Mar 1) as members begin to reach towards the recommendations they will present to Parliament in April. The members are not yet reaching conclusions, but navigating their way through the information which is being presented to them.

I feel like attitudes are constantly changing among who I’m sitting with and I’m enjoying it. Figuring out how we’re going to balance finance and technology and trying to grasp how we’re going to be able to fund these things but make sure things are getting done... It’s pretty special, especially as I’m only 21. It’s something I didn’t think I’d be able to get involved in, this early on. It’s going to have such a big impact on my future and hopefully, my children’s future so it’s really lovely to be asked to be involved in such a massive but valuable project.

Ellie, 21, from Buckinghamshire

The range of issues raised by the members is being demonstrated through the questions fed back to speakers. Here are ten examples:

  • Are manufacturers likely to produce goods where ease of maintenance/repair would reduce their profit margins?
  • What practical solutions are there to change our consumerist attitudes? We like to earn, feel successful, buy nice news things.
  • Bin costs: can the amount of ‘successful’ recycling be used to credit the cost of refuse collection?
  • I like the idea of replacing VAT with green tax. What are the barriers to implementing this?
  • How long does it take for landfill to decompose and is the land usable after, eg for farming or building houses on?
  • Will electric charging not need to be installed before people will consider buying electric vehicles?
  • If we stop road expansion, will we invest in trains?
  • Would you suggest a scrappage scheme to encourage people to purchase electric cars?
  • How can we ensure drivers don’t disengage with the conversation?
  • How do you think reaching the target of net zero by 2050 will effect social inequality?

Assembly members have been talking about the breadth of views which have been heard during discussions.

I was a bit worried that it would just be the people who were most passionate about the crisis – that you’d get an influx of people so it would be very one-sided and biased. So to come in and find it is a complete representation: I’ve spoken to people for who it’s a complete crisis - to complete denial or don’t believe it’s a real thing, that end of the spectrum. So to see that representation was quite a surprise and really refreshing for someone like myself.

Chris, 32, from Oxford