To inform parliamentary scrutiny of government policy.
Six parliamentary select committees: Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS); Environmental Audit; Housing, Communities and Local Government, Science and Technology; Transport; and Treasury.
How the UK can meet the Government’s legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. The commissioning select committees set several more specific questions related to particular policy areas.
Commitment to respond
Parliamentary select committees committed to use recommendations and findings to inform future inquiries and scrutiny activities.
Regular meetings were held between the delivery team and officials in parliament. The Advisory Board and Academic Panel oversaw the assembly content.
Involve (lead design and facilitation), four Expert Leads, Sortition Foundation (recruitment), mySociety (website). The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) supported with stakeholder engagement. Select committee officials supported political engagement and led on communications. The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit provided support on communications outreach (not part of the contract).
110 members were selected randomly using a civic lottery applying the following criteria: age, gender, ethnicity, education, geography, urban/rural, attitude to climate change. 108 members took part in the assembly. The members were paid an honorarium of £150 per weekend, given training when the assembly went online, and paid for necessary support to attend, e.g. costs for childcare, carers.
25 January to 17 May 2020. The assembly was originally designed to run for four weekend sessions between January and March 2020, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, the last weekend was moved online and spread over 3 shorter online sessions during May and June 2020.
In the first weekend, the assembly learned about the science and ethics of climate change and developed a series of guiding principles. In weekends 2 and 3, the assembly was split into three themed workstreams: how we travel; in the home; what we buy, land use, food and farming. During the online sessions the whole assembly considered where electricity comes from, greenhouse gas removal and the impact of Covid-19.
Small group facilitation to ensure fairness in participation and completion of tasks.
Full assembly heard evidence on climate science, net zero target, overarching ethical questions about path to net zero. The Expert Leads created alternative scenarios for what net zero UK could look like (futures) and how UK can get there (policy options). Expert witnesses provided evidence through live presentations or videos (when online), and were available for questioning.
The members considered the future scenarios created by the Expert Leads and compared these against the guiding principles they had developed. Some additional recommendations were added by the participants.
Members considered and voted on a list of policy options proposed by the expert leads. Only the members who worked on specific work-streams voted on the recommendations in those areas. Where the whole assembly worked together on recommendations, all members of CAUK voted on them.
The 556-page final report, written by the lead delivery body and published on 10 September 2020, presents a statement from assembly members and more than 50 recommendations and the level of support for each of the policy options. This is complemented with verbatim quotes to understand the reasons why members supported or opposed measures. A summary report of 31-pages was also published. An interim report was published on 23 June 2020 on Covid-19 recovery and path to net zero ahead of government announcements.
The CAUK website provides extensive details of organisation, presentations, written briefings and results. All presentations and question-and-answer sessions were streamed live and are available on website (including transcriptions). Observers and media were able to attend CAUK sessions but could not interact with the participants. The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) organised a series of briefings for different stakeholders during the process and following release of report. There was a strong social media presence, including dedicated Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Oversight of official response
Members have no role in oversight. The delivery organisation, Involve, secured additional funding to help ensure assembly’s impact.
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee launched an inquiry into CAUK’s recommendations. Its report, Climate Assembly UK: Where are we now?, published in July 2021, is critical of the lack of government response to the assembly’s recommendations. The government provided a limited response to the Committee. Other committees have launched inquiries on aspects of government policy informed by the recommendations of CAUK. All six of the commissioning committee chairs wrote a letter to the Prime Minister and opposition leader to urge them to consider the assembly’s recommendations. Secondary impacts include the integration of recommendations into the Sixth Carbon Budget of the Climate Change Committee. Evidence of impact on assembly members, includes behaviour change. There was fairly extensive media coverage on the first weekend, especially around the attendance of Sir David Attenborough, and on day of the release of the report. A documentary film was shown on BBC on 30 November 2021.
The official Evaluation of Climate Assembly UK, undertaken by academic researchers, was published in July 2021, assessing the deliberative quality of the assembly and the relationship between CAUK and parliament, climate policy, the media, and the public.
Total budget £520,000. £120,000 from the House of Commons, and £200,000 each from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the European Climate Foundation’s UK programme. An extra £40,000 was provided by the two foundations to mitigate impact of Covid-19.
A report by CAST reviews the design and deliberations of CAUK and members’ wider perceptions of climate change, comparing findings with the French Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat (CCC). The team leading the official evaluation have published an article on lessons from CAUK. A documentary on members of CAUK has been aired on BBC.