The government of the Brussels Capital Region in Belgium recently announced the formation of a Citizens’ Assembly for the Climate. This new institution will be composed of 100 people from various backgrounds, who will be working on the Capital Region’s climate policy for a period of one year: setting the agenda; proposing solutions; and monitoring results. The project was developed with the help of G1000, a Belgian organization dedicated to spreading more democratic practices.
The Brussels Citizens’ Assembly for Climate will act as a bridge between the citizens of the region and the Capital Region authorities. It will represent successive citizen panels with recommendations about climate policy, and will also be entitled to follow-ups and detailed explanations from the authorities. Authorities will be required to provide feedback after three months have passed, and then provide a final evaluation after one year. If the government decides not to implement a certain recommendation, it will be required to explain its choice in detail.
Members of the assembly will be entitled to advice from the academic community to help in making their choices. The 100 members will be randomly selected every year, drawing from the population on the basis of age, gender, place of residence, and socio-economic background. The first meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly for the Climate is set for the start of 2023, while the first participants are set to receive their invitations on 22 November.
In future, the chosen themes for each year will be decided by a smaller group of 25 citizens, drawn from the previous year’s session. The government will determine the agenda for the first session, as an exception to the rule.
“There is a big gap between what citizens think is necessary and what politicians actually do. Citizen panels are a very good instrument to reduce this gap. Previous experiments with climate assemblies were one-time projects. Consequently, their impact remained limited. However, the climate transition requires a real democratic transition,” said Jan Rotmans, professor of Climate Transition at Erasmus University.