GW4 researchers’ take leading roles in citizens’ assembly on climate change

February 3, 2020

GW4 was well represented at the UK’s first citizen’s assembly on climate change with researchers from Bristol and Cardiff helping to ensure the balance and accuracy of the discussions. 

The director of Cardiff University’s Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST), Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, is one of four lead experts who is supporting the design and delivery of the Climate Assembly UK.

Professor Dale Southerton and Dr Jo House from the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute for the Environment are part of the academic panel of researchers who are each focused on areas of climate change that the assembly will consider. The Panel will use its expert knowledge to review written briefings for Assembly members and to support the Expert Leads in their role.

Climate Assembly UK met for the first-time last month in Birmingham and will have three further weekend meetings before the end of March.

The initiative, commissioned by MPs from across the political spectrum, will look at how the UK can meet its climate change commitments.

At each weekend Members will consider a range of climate-focused topics including transport, household energy use, agriculture and consumer choices.

The 110 assembly members were selected through a ‘civic lottery’ to be representative of the UK population. They will consider how net zero emissions can be achieved by 2050 and make recommendations on what the Government, businesses, the public and wider UK society should do to reduce carbon emissions.

Over the past four months the Expert Leads, Academic Panel and Advisory Panel have been working with the assembly team to develop and consider detailed plans for the design of the assembly and the speakers that will address assembly members.

At the first weekend assembly members discussed what underpinning principles they believe should steer the UK’s approach to reaching the UK’s climate targets. The assembly heard from a range of speakers on what climate change is, its impacts and the challenges around reducing emissions. Experts also spoke about some of the overarching ethical and strategic questions that arise when tackling climate change.

Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh said: “I’m delighted to be involved in designing the Climate Assembly to ensure it helps policy-makers and society address the climate emergency. It’s a really exciting opportunity for the UK public to have their say on how we as a society tackle climate change. Throughout the first weekend we heard lots of opinions from different people from across the country as they learnt more about the issues. I look forward to the next meetings where we will discuss energy use, transport, what we buy and eat, and land use, plus the Assembly will begin to form conclusions on how the UK should reach net zero emissions by 2050.”

GW4 Director, Sarah Perkins commented: “It’s fantastic to see GW4 institutions represented as part of the Climate Assembly.  GW4 researchers have already been instrumental in identifying climate change tipping points so it is fitting that they play a part in shaping the Assembly and provide expert knowledge to help tackle climate change.”

The GW4 region has more climate expertise than any other area worldwide and the University of Bristol was the first university in the UK to declare a climate emergency.

The outcomes of discussions will be presented in a report to Parliament in April 2020. The six parliamentary committees which commissioned the Assembly will also be able to use the report to continue the dialogue and make recommendations to Government.