Research 314: Deepening Public Engagement on Climate Change: Lessons from the Citizens’ Assembly

Authors: Laura Devaney, Diarmuid Torney, Pat Brereton and Martha Coleman

Summary: The Irish Citizens’ Assembly afforded 99 citizens the time, space and structure to deliberate on some of the most important issues facing Irish society and politics. The 13 climate recommendations agreed on by the citizens in consideration of “How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change” were significantly more radical than many expected. They encompassed a suite of sectors, solutions and policy actions.

Published: 2020

ISBN: 978-1-84095-896-6

Pages: 40

Filesize: 1,199KB

Format: pdf

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Identifying Pressures

In May 2019, the Dáil declared a climate and biodiversity emergency. The Climate Action Plan, published in June 2019, acknowledged that “The window of opportunity to act is fast closing, but Ireland is way off course”. Successful climate action will require profound societal transformation. This will not be possible without citizen engagement at its core.

Informing Policy

Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly was an exceptional experiment in democratic governance and engagement. Comprising 99 citizens, it afforded participants the time, space and structure to deliberate on complex public policy questions, including climate change. The Citizens’ Climate research project aimed to inform policy by drawing lessons from this experience on how and when deliberation can be used to engage with citizens on the climate crisis.

Developing Solutions

The Citizens’ Climate project developed guidelines for policymakers seeking to use deliberation to engage the public. These guidelines are structured around three questions: (1) “What form of public engagement is appropriate?”; (2) “If and when deliberation is appropriate, what rules should be followed?”; and (3) “How can the climate crisis best be communicated to diverse audiences?”

Additional Resource

The finalised policymakers’ resource, entitled Enhancing Citizen Engagement on the Climate Crisis: The Role of Deliberation, is published alongside this EPA Research Report and is available online https://bit.ly/2SZZCmG.  The guidelines captured in this resource could be used to underpin future public engagement activities conducted within the remit of the NDCA.