Whether it is a consequence of the pandemic or not, Spain is immersed in a “resetting wave” that materializes in various initiatives and projects: a long-term view from the program Spain 2050, a Sustainable Development Strategy to meet the 2030 Agenda in the making, the European instrument Next Generation to make this transformation possible, an accountability exercise with the initiative Fulfilling, and the recently announced Citizen Assembly for the Climate, which develops one of the precepts of the Climate Change and Energy Transition Law.
The set of such exercises indicates that the current one is a time of profound rethinking of the social and economic model, as corresponds to these times of tectonic movements. To guarantee its success, the need to articulate wide-ranging political agreements is often appealed to, and it is difficult to question whether this is the case. However, there are other no less relevant elements that are often forgotten. On the one hand, the coherence of policies -that is, the need for the different instruments to contribute to a common objective-, and on the other, to be able to articulate a great social conversation, beyond the usual environments, about the great challenges today diagnosed.
Political agreements, social conversation and policy coherence to address the greatest challenge facing humanity: facing the climate crisis that is already beginning to change everything. In this sense, the Citizen Assembly for the Climate that has just been announced in Spain may have a component of social innovation that helps to articulate this plural dialogue, fosters the possibility of political agreement, and gives the ecological transition the necessary depth to that it becomes a vector of policy coherence.
Before Spain, citizen assemblies for the climate have been developed in Ireland, Scotland, England and France. They are motivated by the realization that, despite the fact that democratic systems have proven to be the best prepared to face the climate challenge, there are difficulties that explain why it has not yet been able to make sustainability a central axis of society. The prevailing short-term view, both politically, economically and socially, as well as the complexity of the phenomenon and the possible alternatives, and the difficulty of integrating this type of issue into voting decisions, are some of them .
In order to try to alleviate these deficiencies, in recent years the climate crisis has been the reason for different exercises of social and political innovation. Among them, the citizen assemblies, an exercise of deliberative democracy in which between one hundred and two hundred people, selected through a stratified random sampling, deliberate on an issue of public importance under the principles of transparency, freedom, objectivity and equality.
Assemblies are normally structured in three phases: learning, deliberation, and decision-making. In the learning phase, the interdisciplinary group of experts intervenes, with a methodology designed to avoid as much as possible the biases that may be projected. The second phase, that of deliberation, is carried out by a team of facilitators, who are in charge of guiding citizens through the entire process and ensuring that the necessary conditions of listening, respect, etc., are met so that the debate can be considered such. Finally, the result of the process is a series of recommendations or proposals that the assembly delivers to the public officials, who is responsible for making decisions.
The Spanish assembly, just announced and still in the phase of specifying some details, will address an already defined question: “A safer Spain in the face of climate change, how do we do it?” Its objective will be to propose recommendations that will serve for debate at all levels of the Administration, as well as the different economic and social actors, and that will be sent to the Government and the Congress of Deputies to ensure knowledge of the proposals and preferences. of citizenship in matters of climate action.
As has happened in England, Ireland, Scotland and France, this exercise will require a good deal of imagination, generosity and collective intelligence. It does not replace any of the processes or the functions of the institutions, nor does it replace the environmental movement, or the experts, or the numerous forums that have been working for years to reconcile the economic, political and social model with the planet. Nothing further. Moreover, thanks to the work that all these people and entities have done, today the ecological transition means that the resetting wave must necessarily be green.
Citizen assemblies for the climate are proving to be valuable spaces for deliberation where the feelings, fears and desires of a society that faces transcendent changes are manifested. Let no one expect magic potions, but experimentation and innovation is where you can look for the ingredients that help solve the crossroads in which we live. The pandemic has only made them more evident, but they have been with us for a few decades. Hopefully this multiple crisis in which the covid has put us helps to solve them.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.