Camden Council holds first climate change ‘citizens assembly’ to find out what public think should be done about crisis
PUBLISHED: 19:06 04 July 2019 | UPDATED: 19:06 04 July 2019
Vanessa Berberian 2019
Camden Council has held the country’s first citizens assembly on climate change.
The assembly was the first of three events in which a demographically representative selection of 72 Camden citizens learn about the climate crisis and propose an environmental action plan for 2020.
Cllr Georgia Gould, leader of Camden Council, said: "We want the ideas that come out of this group of citizens to shape our new Climate Action plan."
She said it was important the public took an active role in developing climate policy that could be applied in a home, neighbourhood and council setting.
"I think the climate crisis is the kind of issue that needs huge change by the government but also by society," she said. "We can try to find that from the town hall but it is so much more powerful if citizens who have completely different lived experiences discuss and come up with ideas themselves.
"Our climate is in a crisis and we need to act in radical new ways and this assembly is part of developing those new ideas."
Sir Keir Starmer, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, praised the process.
"I am a big supporter of citizen's assemblies," he said, "because I feel very strongly that in the last three or four years we have got into a way of doing politics which is excluding many people from the debate.
"We have a tribal politics where people shout at each other and we need to recreate a space for sensible political discourse on really important issues of the day."
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Speakers at the event included Mark Maslin, a professor of climatology at UCL.
"I think it is important that people are involved in decision making," he said, "and of course something which is so important as climate change and the way we change our lifestyle - I think is important for people to have a say."
The first session, which comprised a series of talks by climate change experts, aimed to help participants develop an understanding of climate science and the impact of climate change on the world. The session also developed an understanding of how changes in Camden can help address the climate crisis.
Among the energy-saving measures discussed were replacing gas boilers with electric heat pumps, banning gas boilers being fitted in new builds, and switching to greener forms of transport. While people questioned the cost of these measures, they did express interest in them.
The process was widely praised by participants.
Daniel Rudolfi, who lives in Belsize Park, said: "Having the data there is very interesting to see because it is in your face.
"If not, we don't see it. We see climate change and it isn't something you can visualise. It was good to have the cold hard facts right there."
Edward Vijay, who lives in Primrose Hill said: "I enjoyed discussing the issue around the table. I felt like I already knew a lot already but I found out more today.
"I wish more of the cons were discussed. I don't think you can ever have a win-win situation. There is going to be a negative and as soon as we figure out what those negatives are now, the more informed our choices will be."
The Paris climate conference in 2015 saw governments agree to limit the Earth's temperature increase above pre-industrial levels to 2C, with efforts to reduce that to 1.5C, meaning emissions peak as soon as possible and then rapidly decrease to net zero, or negative, in the second half of this century. Failure to do so is likely to cause catastrophic damage to life, ecosystems, biodiversity, the habitability of parts of the planet, and the availability of resources.
The series of events will conclude on July 20, after which proposals will be put forward to the council.
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