One hundred and eight randomly selected people from the UK met over six weekends earlier this year to consider how the UK should decarbonise transport, energy, food and other things we buy; and how best to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Their report was published last week.
The assembly proposed an excellent framework for developing detailed policy, emphasising the need to inform and educate everyone; to act fairly, inclusively, urgently and locally; and for leadership to be proactive, accountable and cross-party.
On transport, assembly members rejected measures to force people to reduce the distances we travel, preferring instead to focus on reducing emissions from the vehicles we use, and providing attractive alternatives to driving. The seemingly unambitious target reduction in car usage of 2–5% per decade should not distract from ambitious policy recommendations for public transport.
The assembly wanted the government to invest in electrifying buses and trains, and to provide more and cheaper (even free) public transport. To make this work, they wanted public transport to be brought under government control (75% for, 11% against, so this was probably supported by a majority of voters from all political parties).
On cars, the assembly wanted to see a rapid phase-out of the most polluting vehicles (such as petrol/diesel SUVs). They wanted new developments to include local amenities and car clubs to reduce car-ownership and -dependency. There was even majority support for charging people to use roads and closing more roads to cars.
The Climate Assembly UK was not a government initiative, but it was set up by six parliamentary select committees. So it needs people to put pressure on government (e.g. by writing to your MP) to act on the assembly’s recommendations. The government has failed so far to act on the recommendations of the similar Citizens’ Assembly on Social Care, so pressure is important.
What else can you do? Take to heart a key recommendation of the assembly: to inform and educate people about the need to decarbonise, how we can act individually, and what we need to be asking of our politicians. Unless we’re talking about it, we’re probably not preparing to act.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 23 September 2020.