First UK-wide Climate Assembly set to meet in Birmingham

110 citizens from all walks of life will be meeting in Birmingham this weekend (24-26 January) to give Parliament an insight into public opinion on how the UK should address the climate emergency.

Crowd of people at a protest
Crowd of people at a protest
Imogen Benson

110 British citizens have been selected to participate in the UK’s first Climate Assembly, which is set to meet for the first time this weekend (24-26 January) in Birmingham. 

Members have been chosen using random stratified sampling to represent a representative cross-section of society, bringing together people from different regions, age groups, gender, ethnicities and attitudes. 

The Assembly will meet for four weekends between January and March, listening to views and evidence from panels of stakeholders and researchers before presenting Parliament with a series of recommendations, to be published in a report in April.

Over the first weekend in Birmingham, the group will discuss and agree on what underpinning principles should steer the UK’s approach to addressing the climate crisis. The second and third weekends will see the Assembly break into smaller groups to enable in-depth discussion on specific topics, before discussing a final set of issues over the fourth weekend.

Welcoming the assembly members, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Right Honourable Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, said: “Concern about climate change is as high as ever, and it’s clear we all need to play our part to achieve the net-zero emissions target that was passed into UK law by Parliament last year. 

“This is why I welcome the work of Climate Assembly UK, a great example of parliamentarians engaging with the public to help influence their work and proposals for action. 

“I am very grateful to the Assembly members for their time. I look forward to hearing the outcome of their discussions – and to chairing House of Commons debates on a topic that is so relevant to us all.”

Assembly Member Marc, 46, from Newcastle, commented: “I felt like I’d won the lottery when I got the letter. I’d be daft not to do it – it’s amazing to get the change to have a say and influence what may happen in the future. I was in the army for 22 years so I’ve not got a problem meeting new people and learning new things, I’m really looking forward to it. I hope Britain can take a leading role with making the changes we need to secure our future.”

Adrian, 52, from Belfast, added: “Climate change is playing a bigger part in public life than ever before. You can see that it’s starting to affect people’s consciences and their choices – but we need to help knowing what to do other than putting the right rubbish in the right bin. I have three children and that has played a significant role in me wanting to be part of the Assembly. I ask myself what is the legacy of my generation going to be for them?”

While the creation of the Climate Assembly is a positive step, some have questioned what the government hopes to learn from it. Craig Bennett, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth, said: “Citizens' assemblies could play an important role in determining some of the more difficult questions about how our country ends its contribution to the climate crisis. 

“Obviously they shouldn't be used as an excuse for delaying things further, though. For example, we don’t need a citizens’ assembly to tell us that the UK Government must invest urgently in a massive programme of home energy efficiency and public transport. 

“The UK can and must drastically cut emissions in the lifetime of this Parliament and the Climate Assembly can help shape how that happens. The public is well ahead of politicians in their appetite for faster action – it’s deeds, not words needed now.” 

The Climate Assembly was commissioned in June 2019 by six Parliamentary select committees following the government’s announcement of its commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050

More information can be found on the Climate Assembly UK website, which will be livestreaming presentations and publishing key documents.