WHAT IS A CITIZEN’S ASSEMBLY?
A citizens’ assembly brings people together to learn, deliberate, and make recommendations in relation to a particular issue. Impartially selected at random (i.e., sortition), citizens’ assembly participants will be selected to reflect the demographic composition of the US. Assembly members learn about critical thinking, hear balanced information from experts and stakeholders, deliberate in small groups, and draft and vote on recommendations. The assembly will be conducted by a non-partisan organisation under independent oversight.
Citizens’ assemblies are often used to address issues that are deemed too controversial and difficult for politicians to deal with successfully.
In recent years, Ireland has used citizens’ assemblies to successfully break the deadlock on two controversial issues: legalising same-sex marriage and the repeal of the Eighth Amendment on abortion. The recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly informed public debate and emboldened politicians to advocate for change regarding these issues. The Irish Citizens’ Assembly website provides information on all issues deliberated by the assembly. For example, Making Ireland a Leader in Tackling Climate Change (scroll down to the Recommendations section to see their conclusions on this issue). The Irish parliament are currently considering a Climate Emergency Measures Bill, which will ban oil and gas exploration.
THE CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY ON THE CLIMATE AND ECOLOGICAL CRISIS
The truth is that the climate and ecological emergency poses an unprecedented existential threat to humanity and all life on Earth.
Rapid, unprecedented changes to many aspects of human life – energy use and supply, transport, farming and food supply, and so on – are now needed to avert global climate and ecological catastrophe.
Globally governments have been unwilling to tackle a problem of this magnitude. In 2015, the UN Paris Agreement on Climate Change was signed by world leaders to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. However, scientific evidence now tells us that our leaders have not taken enough action and we are still on a path to reach 3-4°C, which will be catastrophic to all life on Earth.
This is an emergency. The challenges are big, wide-ranging and complex. And solutions are needed urgently.
Extinction Rebellion believes that part of the problem is the way that government operates.
The United States is a representative democracy. The citizens elect representatives such as the president, members of congress, and senators to run the government.
This form of government has proved itself incapable of making the radical long-term policy decisions needed to deal effectively with the climate and ecological crisis:
It is nervous of voter disapproval.
The two and four-year election cycle encourages short-term goals that ensure re-election stifling long-term planning.
Political parties are influenced by the interests of corporate lobbies, biased and commercially orientated media and wealthy financial backers.
Representatives infer what their constituents want through opinion polling, which captures unconsidered, offhand opinions, while citizens’ assemblies produce informed and deliberated public judgements.
Representatives are under pressure by their own party members and are often unable to make the decisions they feel are right.
To break this deadlock, Extinction Rebellion is urging the government to commission a Citizens' Assembly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency to create a roadmap for the US to navigate through this crisis.
Note: Citizens' Assemblies are not the same as People's Assemblies! You can find out the difference between them on our Assemblies page.