A more systematic understanding of the impact of climate assemblies is much needed. Assuming impact equates to the extent to which recommendations of assemblies are implemented is too simplistic. Two reports published this week take up this challenge of more systematically understanding the range of impacts of assemblies.

The first, the latest KNOCA Briefing, is “Planning And Assessing the Impact and Legacy of Climate Assemblies” authored by Dan Thorman and Stuart Capstick from the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST). The Briefing draws on a rapid evidence review and interviews with leading experts on climate deliberation. The authors present an accessible framework for exploring the impact and legacy of climate assemblies that draws important distinctions between timescales, objectives and strategy, areas of influence and types of outcome. The Briefing distinguishes between motivations that are normative (participation is the right thing to do), instrumental (participation is a better way to achieve particular ends) and substantive (participation leads to better ends) and provides evidence that climate assemblies have reflected these motivations in the different ways that impact and legacy has been pursued.

The second report, “From a ‘half full or half empty glass’ to ‘definitely a success’. Explorative comparison of impacts of climate assemblies in Ireland, France, Germany and Scotland” is a Working Paper by Shauna Stack and Erich Griessler from the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS) in Vienna. Embracing the idea that impact is broad and multi-faceted, the Working Paper evaluates the extent to which the different assemblies have had impacts on public debate and political discourse, on the public, on media, on deliberative democracy and on participants. Importantly, as with the KNOCA Briefing, it considers the factors that mediate such impacts.

The two reports are important contributions to a more mature debate and understanding of the impact and legacy of climate assemblies. They point to the need for systematic evaluation of impact and, just as important, the pathways that enable or disable that impact.