On the Weekend of 12th and 13th December I had the opportunity of observer at the second weekend of Scotland’s Climate Assembly. The assembly process has brought together a group of people who are broadly representative of the Scottish population. The Assembly Members have taken on the task of learning about, discussing and making recommendations on how we can best tackle climate change. Specifically, they’ve been asked to consider this question ‘how should Scotland change to tackle the climate emergency in an effective and fair way?’.
Observing Scotland’s Climate Assembly
When I realised that there was an opportunity to observe the process I filled out the application and waited without much expectation; as the website said the majority of observers would be by invitation, from businesses, the media or other interested organisations. I had just applied as a member of the public. The first session was run in November however I was invited to observe on the second weekend of 12th and 13th December.
A schedule was sent out in advance and the session all set out. That is when I realised that all the materials covered on the first weekend were already available to view on their YouTube channel
I had a look at the first weekends material and found it entertaining and engaging. The very basics of climate change are set out, the science and the facts which are agreed and known. This process has to start at the very beginning as people will all have different levels of prior knowledge.
The way the observing works is that the agenda for the two days is shared with observers who then access the presentations as they are released to the assembly members. Observers do not have access to the members group discussions, but are invited to a debrief session at the end of the weekend, where the experts who have given presentations take questions. This is an opportunity to find out what types of questions the assembly members had and how the discussions have gone and also to ask questions about the process of the assembly.
I actually didn’t view anything on the Saturday, but caught up the whole thing on the Sunday, watching all the videos on YouTube and joined the live zoom session at 4.30pm.
There were presentations from academics, business and community organisations. Overall the quality of information and presentation was excellent. This second weekend was focussed on what can be done in Scotland. Showing what Scotland’s impact is now and what mitigations and adaptions could be made. Also where responsibility lies for change, whether that is local government, devolved Scottish government or the Westminster national government. It also specifically focussed on the fairness part of the question, exploring how different people in our communities will be impacted by choices we make.
For me the most impactful was Kevin Andersons ‘What does the Paris agreement mean for Scotland’. He presented very clearly what Scotland’s ‘share of the pie’ is in terms of our carbon budget and then laid out the changes we would need to make to achieve the Paris agreement targets making it very clear how quickly we must act.
I was also inspired by Daisy Narayanan’s introduction to communities, in which she focussed on fairness. She introduced the idea of 20 minute neighbourhoods and showed how local planning decisions affect our ability to mitigate climate change.
The strength of the material in all contributions is that it is coming from many and diverse people with a wealth of real experience, knowledge and evidence. And it is all still available on YouTube !
A new kind of democracy
Asking Scottish citizens to engage in this new democratic process is an important step for our Scottish Parliament. Unlike the UK citizen assembly on climate change this one has been commissioned by our Scottish parliament. The recommendations of Scotland’s Climate Assembly will be delivered to the Scottish Parliament and ministers will be asked to respond to those recommendations. People of Scotland have been given a voice, a chance to listen and to be heard.