COVID and climate change are worldwide crises, with local impacts and global ramifications. While existential threats aren’t new to indigenous people and others on the frontlines geographically or in our economies, the size and implication of the climate threats and the need and opportunities for substantial change are before us.
Science demands we act swiftly on climate change, but our current process has been too slow, divided, and inaccessible. Even states that lead on climate policy are making decisions behind closed doors, excluding the voices of youth and frontline communities, exacerbating power inequities in our society. Democracy needs to work for all of us—but it doesn’t include all of us.
In light of impending climate disaster and an ongoing pandemic, how can we ensure our response is inclusive, effective, and democratic? As our future hangs in the balance, the answer is not just a new policy—it’s a new process.
A Citizens’ Assembly (or preferably, a People’s Assembly) brings together people from all walks of life into one space, in person or online, to learn about, discuss, and deliberate on a topic, and then provide recommendations to their government and their fellow citizens.
The members of an Assembly are often chosen by lottery and constructed to mirror the population in gender, race, age, neighborhood, and socioeconomic status, to try to be visibly democratic in the most fundamental sense. Such processes are often more expensive and protracted and require polling or consulting firms. Those ultimately chosen may meet over times ranging from a couple months to a year or more, listening to experts, having discussions, and coming to decisions, often with a very high degree of consensus.
It is also possible to develop citizens assemblies on many levels, from local to regional, statewide and larger, involving those who are willing and interested in learning and deliberating, to identify what are widely held values, widely understood responsibilities, and what comprises the common good.
Drawing inspiration from the Citizens’ Assemblies wrapping up now in the UK and France, organizers throughout the USA are building online statewide Climate Assemblies throughout summer 2020. This example/tool of direct democracy has seen success worldwide, but is just beginning to reach the USA.
Colorado’s may go early in this process as Colorado is one of four states nationally with GHG reduction levels in law, a minimum of 26% economy-wide reductions by 2025, for which draft implementing regulations are to be developed and issued before July 1, 2020 (Colorado’s climate laws were passed a year ago and specified this revision to Colorado Statute 25-7).
States’ futures are and will be defined by how we respond to the climate and COVID-19 crises. How do we rebuild in an environmentally conscious and just way? Let’s work this out together—farmers, healthcare workers, coal miners, libertarians, and those who are the first and most violently impacted by climate change but whose interests are least represented
by our current political system.
Let’s hear the will of the people—all the people. Let’s hear it from the people. climateassembly.us, @climateassembly
- Identify and contact legislators who may support listening to citizens through an online assembly and deliberative process. Let legislators know about efforts in process in other states, such as Washington and New York.
- Connect with others doing this work. Contact us for support and introductions.