Climate Assembly UK was commissioned by six select committees of the House of Commons to understand public preferences on how to tackle climate change, specifically how to get to net-zero by 2050.
108 assembly members – made up of people from all walks of life – met over six weekends between January and May to hear evidence, discuss and reach recommendations on the UK's path to net zero.
Climate Assembly UK published its recommendations on 10th September 2020.
The UK’s Government and Parliament agreed in June 2019 that the UK should do more to tackle climate change. They passed a law committing the UK to reaching 'net zero' emissions by 2050.
The UK’s net zero target means that by 2050 the UK will have to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases it produces to a much lower level than today. It will also need to balance its remaining emissions by absorbing the same amount from the atmosphere.
The actions required to do this will change the way we heat our homes, what we buy, how we travel, and many other aspects of our lives, as all of these result in emissions in some way. What exactly these impacts are will depend on what the UK does to meet its target, and how it does it. These are the questions that Climate Assembly UK considered.
What we did
Climate Assembly UK has 108 members, chosen through a 'civic lottery' to be representative of the UK population in terms of:
- Educational level;
- Where in the UK they live;
- Whether they live in an urban or a rural area;
- Their level of concern about climate change.
The civic lottery process started with posting 30,000 letters to randomly selected households across the UK. Read more about how this works.
The assembly members met across six weekends. The first three weekends took place face-to-face in Birmingham between late January and early March 2020. The fourth and final weekend was moved online because of Covid-19, and split over three further weekends in April and May. Splitting up the final weekend helped ensure that the assembly remained accessible and enjoyable for all its members.
At the weekends, assembly members heard from speakers with a wide range of views about how to get to net zero, and questioned them in-depth. They then discussed their views in detail, drawing on what they had heard as well as their own experiences and values. The assembly reached its decisions by voting by secret ballot.
Chapter one of the Climate Assembly UK report explains how the assembly worked, including the ‘civic lottery’ process. It also contains a full breakdown of the assembly’s membership.
What did the assembly consider
The assembly considered eight topic areas:
- How we travel on land;
- How we travel by air;
- Heat and energy use in the home;
- What we eat and how we use the land;
- What we buy;
- Where our electricity comes from;
- Greenhouse gas removals;
- Covid-19, recovery and the path to net zero.
It also looked at underpinning principles for the path to net zero, and any additional recommendations assembly members wished to make to Parliament and government.
The Executive Summary of the Climate Assembly UK report explains more about what the assembly looked at and its headline recommendations across all of these areas.
Who was involved
There are many individuals and organisations involved in delivering, overseeing, advising and funding Climate Assembly UK.
The Expert Leads ensure that Climate Assembly UK is:
- Balanced, accurate and comprehensive in terms of its content on climate change;
- Focussed on the key decisions facing the UK about how to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
They work closely with us on the design of the assembly and play a key role at the assembly weekends. They are specialists in different approaches to tackling climate change. The Expert Leads are:
- Chris Stark, Chief Executive of the Committee of Climate Change;
- Jim Watson, Professor of Energy Policy, University College London and Director of the UK Energy Research Centre;
- Lorraine Whitmarsh, Professor of Environmental Psychology, University of Bath, and Director of the UK Centre of Climate Change and Social Transformations;
- Rebecca Willis, Professor in Practice, University of Lancaster.
We are responsible for ensuring that Climate Assembly UK is a high quality citizens’ assembly. We work closely with the Expert Leads on the assembly’s design, focussing on areas such as the assembly’s structure, timings and accessibility. We also provide the facilitation team for the assembly, and manage the project overall. We are the main point of contact for assembly members.
The Sortition Foundation was responsible for recruiting a representative group of people to take part in Climate Assembly UK. It is a not-for-profit company that promotes the use of randomly selected groups of people in decision-making. www.sortitionfoundation.org
mySociety created Climate Assembly UK’s website and part of its branding. It is a not-for-profit social enterprise that provides technology, research and data that help people to be active citizens. www.mysociety.org
Climate Assembly UK was commissioned by six select committees of the House of Commons. Staff from the House of Commons and the Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology, who specialise in producing balanced information, oversee, and sign off, all work on the assembly on behalf of these committees.
The six select committees are: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Environmental Audit; Housing, Communities and Local Government; Science and Technology; Transport; and Treasury.
The Advisory Panel provided feedback on key aspects of the assembly’s design, including:
- Who was invited to give evidence and what they were asked to cover;
- The questions on which assembly members were asked to give their views;
- The written briefings created for assembly members.
The panel supported the Expert Leads in ensuring that Climate Assembly UK was balanced, accurate and comprehensive in terms of its content on climate change.
You can see a full list of Advisory Panel members in Chapter One of the assembly’s report.
The Academic Panel reviewed the written briefings created for assembly members to support the Expert Leads in ensuring they were balanced, accurate and comprehensive. Its members were also asked for additional advice by the Expert Leads. Academic Panel members are researchers specialising in various aspects of climate change.
You can see a full list of Academic Panel members in Chapter One of the assembly’s report.
Climate Assembly UK is funded by the House of Commons, with additional funding from two philanthropic organisations: the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the European Climate Foundation. The two organisations providing additional funding do not have a say over how the assembly is run.
Read the assembly’s report
The assembly’s recommendations are available in different levels of detail. Choose from:
The Executive Summary
The Executive Summary provides an overview of the assembly’s process and key recommendations. It contains:
- Forewords from the commissioning select committee Chairs and the assembly's Expert Leads that place the assembly and its report in context;
- An opening statement from the assembly members themselves that highlights key themes emerging from their recommendations. This statement is an excellent place to start for anyone wanting an overarching picture of the assembly's results;
- Key recommendations each of the areas that the assembly considered, as well as a brief overview of the assembly process and how assembly members found taking part.
The full report
The full report presents the assembly’s recommendations and its rationale for them in-depth. Chapter One also explains the assembly’s process in detail. The full report will be particularly useful to policy-makers, researchers and others working in detail on the areas considered by the assembly.
The full report is downloadable as one single document, or as individual chapters. Each chapter is designed to stand alone. These are available as PDFs below, as well as in a range of other formats 1
- 1Available formats include online and plain text on the Climate Assembly UK website.
Download a specific chapter:
- Chapter 1: About Climate Assembly UK
- Chapter 2: Underpinning principles for the path to net zero
- Chapter 3: How we travel on land
- Chapter 4: How we travel by air
- Chapter 5: Heat and energy use in the home
- Chapter 6: What we eat and how we use the land
- Chapter 7: What we buy
- Chapter 8: Where our electricity comes from
- Chapter 9: Greenhouse gas removals
- Chapter 10: Covid-19, recovery and the path to net zero
- Chapter 11: Additional recommendations
The detailed chapters each contain:
- A quick summary of key recommendations on the relevant theme at the chapter’s start, for ease of reference;
- The assembly's formal recommendations, decided by secret ballot. This includes full results of all votes;
- Assembly members’ rationale for their decisions, captured through notes from their small group conversations and qualitative responses on their ballot papers. Assembly members have checked these sections to verify their accuracy;
- Some assembly members noted conditions to their support for recommendations or points for decision-makers to bear in mind around implementation. The report includes these in full.
The independent evaluation of Climate Assembly UK focuses on "the extent to which the assembly promoted norms of deliberative democracy and met established standards of citizens’ assemblies." It covers the period up to the launch of the assembly's final report.
Following the assembly, we also worked with two members of the independent evaluation team - Stephen Elstub and Jayne Carrick from Newcastle University to look at two further areas:
- The impact taking part in the assembly had on assembly members, covering their climate - and political - attitudes and actions in the two years after the assembly finished. The annexes to that report are here;
- The impact of the assembly on stakeholders, via a survey in February 2021 (five months after the launch of the assembly's final report).
Find out more