A hundred randomly chosen citizens, five sessions and a question to be answered: “A safer Spain in the face of climate change, how do we do it? ”. This is the mandate that the future citizen assembly for the climate that the Government intends to launch will have. The idea of the Ministry for Ecological Transition is that the first virtual session be held in the fall and that the works be completed in the first quarter of next year so that this assembly has its recommendations ready. These will be sent to the Executive and will be presented before the Congress of Deputies, but in no case will they be binding.
The Government pledged in January 2020 – when it approved a declaration of climate emergency – to launch this assembly, similar to those that have been constituted in the UK, Sweden or Scotland. The promise of the Executive of PSOE and United We Can was to create it in the first 100 days of mandate, something that has been widely breached. The director of the Spanish Office for Climate Change, Valvanera Ulargui, has blamed the pandemic for the delay in meeting the promised schedule.
Ulargui has been in charge of presenting the initiative this Wednesday, which will be launched through a ministerial order that has already started its processing. He recalled that the recently approved climate change law included the creation of the national citizen assembly in its parliamentary procedure. The first time such a body was launched was in Sweden in 2014.
The random selection of these 100 citizens – which the Government will subcontract to a specialized demoscopic company – will be carried out so that Spanish society is represented in the most faithful way possible. The ministry explains that, although the final choice will be random, a methodology will be sought to reflect the regional and social distribution and the balance between urban and rural areas, and that it will be based on criteria such as age, gender, educational level. , the geographical origin and the attitude towards climate change typical of the inhabitants of the entire country.
In any case, the idea is that they are not experts in climate change or the environment. Citizens will have the advice and guidance of a group of independent experts who will train them and help guide the discussions, from which specific recommendations should emerge. And they will receive a remuneration similar to that offered to citizens who participate in the polling stations in the elections.
The objective, in addition to increasing citizen awareness about the climate crisis, is, as explained by the ministry, to generate debate “about what the solutions should be to the major transformations that must be undertaken to achieve climate neutrality before the year 2050 and to make a country more resilient to the impacts of climate change ”. However, the start-up of the assembly comes after the Government and the Courts have precisely approved the climate change law and the long-term decarbonization strategy. Ulargui has defended that, apart from those great norms, now a moment begins in which more laws and decrees will have to be put on the table and there the assembly will be able to make contributions.
The destination of these recommendations is one of the aspects that generates the most debate. Some groups, such as activists from Extinction Rebellion, ask that those conclusions be binding. But Ulargui has pointed out that, except in the case of France, in the countries where similar initiatives have been launched, it has been decided not to give these ideas legal force. “It must be remembered that this group of citizens does not have a popular mandate,” he pointed out about the complicated legal framework that binding conclusions would have.
In any case, Ulargui has highlighted the importance of this “deliberative participatory” exercise, which seeks to further involve citizens in responses to climate change. In this specific case, emphasizing “social justice”, the director of the Spanish Office for Climate Change has pointed out. This representative of the Ministry for Ecological Transition has made it clear that the assembly will not eliminate or replace the citizen consultation bodies that already exist and where environmental organizations and groups are represented.
For now, it is clear that a first assembly will be held this year. But Ulargui has not made it clear if the idea is to maintain this organ over time or if it will be a specific action. Of course, he recalled that the climate change law opens the door for similar assemblies to be held in each autonomous community.