To inform government policy on climate change following consideration of recommendations by both Houses of Parliament (the Oireachtas).
The coalition government committed to a citizens’ assembly as part of its partnership programme. The Citizens’ Assembly’s terms of reference were agreed by the Houses of the Oireachtas in July 2016. Climate change was one of 5 areas considered by the Assembly.
How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change.
Commitment to respond
Parliament committed to consider the recommendations of the assembly through a joint committee of both Houses and to bring its conclusions to the Houses for debate.
Independent Chair (retired supreme judge), Secretariat (seconded civil servants), Steering Group (the Chair and a representative group of Assembly Members elected by the wider Assembly), and Expert Advisory Group.
The Secretariat and Chair led the process. The Expert Advisory Group designed the process and selected witnesses with oversight from the Steering Group. RED C Research and Marketing Ltd were commissioned to recruit members and Roomaxx Ltd to provide facilitation and note-taking.
99 members, along with 99 “substitute” members, were recruited through random door-to-door contact. There were 53 replacements during the lifetime of the 18-month assembly. Members were recruited using the following criteria: gender, age, location, and social class. Members were not paid an honorarium.
The assembly worked on the topic of climate change over 2 weekends between 30 September and 5 November 2017. In total, the assembly met over 12 weekends between 15 October 2016 and 15 April 2018 on a range of other topics, including the constitutional status of abortion.
The Assembly heard presentations from experts and civil society and advocacy groups about the science of climate change and its impacts, and about the largest sources of emissions in Ireland: the energy sector, agriculture, and transport. The members participated in question-and-answer sessions and took part in round table discussions to consider evidence. During the second weekend, the members agreed the wording of the ballot paper (drafted by the Expert Advisory Group). [Note: the assembly did not break into sub-groups to consider particular topics]
Small table facilitation to ensure fairness in participation and completion of tasks.
Prior to the start of the assembly, members were provided with background information documents. Presentations from experts and civil society and advocacy groups and summaries of 1,185 written submissions from members of the public. The members contributed to the selection of evidence: at the end of the preceding topic on the impact of an ageing population,the assembly was asked to consider what content they wanted to be included for the climate change weekends.
Ideas were generated through round table discussions and then collated into proposals on a draft ballot paper, which was refined in an interative process between the members and the Expert Advisory Group.
Decisions were made by majority voting; the assembly members voted by secret ballot on 13 recommendations. The 13 recommendations received support of 80-100%.
A report presenting the 13 recommendations and more detailed explanations was presented to Parliament on 18 April 2018.
The Citizens’ Assembly website provides extensive details of organisation, presentations, written briefings and results. All presentations and question-and-answer sessions were streamed live. Observers and media were able to attend assembly sessions. The media coverage of the assembly tended to focus on the more high-profile issue of abortion.
Oversight of official response
Members had no oversight role. Chair advocated for Assembly recommendations.
The report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA) generally supported the Citizens’ Assembly’s recommendations, with the exception of its proposal to introduce a tax on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Its deliberations led to the declaration of a climate emergency by the Dáil (Lower House). The JOCCA report heavily influenced the cross-government Climate Action Plan published in June 2019 and the subsequent Climate Action Bill 2020.
Evaluation led by university researchers.
The total budget for the Citizens’ Assembly was €1,505,960.90. The specific cost of its work on climate change has not been calculated.