The UK’s first national citizens’ assembly on climate change will be grappling with how to cut emissions from travel, homes and shopping baskets this weekend.
The 110 members of the Climate Assembly UK are meeting for the second time in Birmingham, as part of efforts to plot a path to achieving Britain’s target of net zero emissions by 2050.
The assembly, commissioned by six parliamentary select committees, is being advised by experts about climate change and will then make informed decisions on options for meeting the net zero goal.
Plans for the assembly were drawn up before the general election, but the committee chairs elected by the new Parliament have welcomed the process.
This weekend, assembly members will learn about energy supply and use.
They will then break into three groups to consider different topics of “how we travel”, “in the home” and two linked areas of “what we buy” and “food, farming and land use”.
In the home they will focus on areas such as energy efficiency, heat pumps and hydrogen heating, and hear from experts and advocates on how zero-carbon heating can be delivered by councils, communities or the private sector.
The group will also discuss ways of ensuring changes to home heating are fair and protect consumers.
Assembly members looking at transport will focus both on surface travel such as cars and on aviation, and will include examination of the role of pricing, taxes and regulation.
Professor Jim Watson, one of the assembly’s four expert leads, said: “Transport includes the journeys we undertake during our normal daily lives such as going to work, school or the shops, visiting relatives or going on holiday.
“We’ll be asking the members to consider how changes in how we travel can help get us to net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
“This includes measures which could shift journeys to less carbon intensive forms of travel or to improve the emissions performance of vehicles. They will also consider how we might cut the need for travel in the first place.”
The 110 members of the assembly have been drawn from more than 1,800 people who responded to 30,000 invitations sent to UK households selected at random, and are representative of the UK population in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, education and where they live.
They are also representative of the country in terms of how concerned they are about climate change, with three people not at all concerned, 16 not very concerned, 36 fairly concerned, 54 very concerned, and one who said they did not know, organisers said.
It is hoped the recommendations made by the assembly, which will be published in a report in April, will help inform Parliament and Government on policies to reach net zero.
Greg Clark, chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said: “Ensuring that new technologies and new policies are adopted in a fair and practical manner is critical, so hearing where the citizens’ assembly has reached consensus on these issues is vitally important.”
Rachel Reeves, chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said: “Climate change will have an impact on the way we all live, which highlights the importance of engaging the public in the actions needed to tackle the climate emergency.
“I’m grateful to assembly members for giving up their time to learn about these issues and discuss the best course of action, and it’s vital that at the end of this process, the Government sits up and takes notice.”