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​Climate Assembly UK (CAUK)

​Purpose: To inform parliamentary scrutiny of government policy. ​Website:


The coalition government which includes the Green Party committed to a citizens’ assembly on biodiversity loss as part of its partnership programme. The Citizens’ Assembly’s terms of reference were agreed by the Houses of the Oireachtas in February 2022.

​Task. How the UK can meet the Government’s legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. The commissioning select committees set several more specific questions related to particular policy areas.

​Commitment to respond. Parliamentary select committees committed to use recommendations and findings to inform future inquiries and scrutiny activities.

​Governance. Regular meetings were held between the delivery team and officials in parliament. The Advisory Board and Academic Panel oversaw the assembly content.

​Delivery bodies. Involve (lead design and facilitation), four Expert Leads, Sortition Foundation (recruitment), mySociety (website). The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) supported with stakeholder engagement. Select committee officials supported political engagement and led on communications. The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit provided support on communications outreach (not part of the contract).

​Participant recruitment. 110 members were selected randomly using a civic lottery applying the following criteria: age, gender, ethnicity, education, geography, urban/rural, attitude to climate change. 108 members took part in the assembly. The members were paid an honorarium of £150 per weekend, given training when the assembly went online, and paid for necessary support to attend, e.g. costs for childcare, carers.

​Duration.  25 January to 17 May 2020. The assembly was originally designed to run for four weekend sessions between January and March 2020, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, the last weekend was moved online and spread over 3 shorter online sessions during May and June 2020.  

​Structure. In the first weekend, the assembly learned about the science and ethics of climate change and developed a series of guiding principles. In weekends 2 and 3, the assembly was split into three themed workstreams: how we travel; in the home; what we buy, land use, food and farming. During the online sessions the whole assembly considered where electricity comes from, greenhouse gas removal and the impact of Covid-19.  

​Facilitation. Small group facilitation to ensure fairness in participation and completion of tasks.

​Evidence base. Full assembly heard evidence on climate science, net zero target, overarching ethical questions about path to net zero. The Expert Leads created alternative scenarios for what net zero UK could look like (futures) and how UK can get there (policy options). Expert witnesses provided evidence through live presentations or videos (when online), and were available for questioning.

​Developing recommendations. The members considered the future scenarios created by the Expert Leads and compared these against the guiding principles they had developed. Some additional recommendations were added by the participants.

​Decision-making. Members considered and voted on a list of policy options proposed by the expert leads. Only the members who worked on specific workstreams voted on the recommendations in those areas. Where the whole assembly worked together on recommendations, all members of CAUK voted on them.

​Final report. The 556-page final report, written by the lead delivery body and published on 10 September 2020, presents a statement from assembly members and more than 50 recommendations and the level of support for each of the policy options. This is complemented with verbatim quotes to understand the reasons why members supported or opposed measures. A summary report of 31-pages was also published. An interim report was published on 23 June 2020 on Covid-19 recovery and path to net zero ahead of government announcements.

​Communication. The CAUK website provides extensive details of organisation, presentations, written briefings and results. All presentations and question-and-answer sessions were streamed live and are available on website (including transcriptions). Observers and media were able to attend CAUK sessions but could not interact with the participants. The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) organised a series of briefings for different stakeholders during the process and following release of report. There was a strong social media presence, including dedicated Twitter and Instagram accounts.

​Official response. The Select Committees did not make a formal collective response to the report. The House of Commons debated the report and passed a motion of support for the assembly, calling on the government to take note of the recommendations of the Assembly as it develops policy. No formal response from the government.  

​Oversight of official response. Members have no formal role in oversight.  The delivery organisation, Involve, secured additional funding from the European Climate Foundation to help ensure assembly’s impact. This included a one-year anniversary event that brought members to parliament to meet with three select committee chairs, officials and stakeholders to talk about their findings. Involve has submitted responses based on CAUK report to relevant consultations, provided media responses and commentary and engaged with stakeholders.


The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee launched an inquiry into CAUK’s recommendations.  Its report, Climate Assembly UK: Where are we now?, published in July 2021, is critical of the lack of government response to the assembly’s recommendations. The government provided a limited response to the Committee. Other committees have launched inquiries on aspects of government policy informed by the recommendations of CAUK. All six of the commissioning committee chairs wrote a letter to the Prime Minister and opposition leader to urge them to consider the assembly’s recommendations. Other impacts include the integration of recommendations into the Sixth Carbon Budget of the Climate Change Committee. Evidence of impact on assembly members, includes sustained attitude and behaviour change, and on a number of stakeholders. There was fairly extensive media coverage on the first weekend, especially around the attendance of Sir David Attenborough, and on day of the release of the report. A documentary film was shown on BBC on 30 November 2021. CAUK has influenced the wider take up of assemblies in the UK, including the People’s Assembly for Nature sponsored by WWF, RSPB and National Trust.


No independent research commissioned. Secretariat will conduct a detailed review of the recruitment methodology to refine and improve for future citizens’ assemblies. Data from each weekend member surveys has been analysed quickly by the Secretariat with the support of the deliberative specialist on the Expert Advisory Group to inform programme design.

​Budget. Total budget £520,000. £120,000 from the House of Commons, and £200,000 each from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the European Climate Foundation’s UK programme. An extra £40,000 was provided by the two foundations to mitigate impact of Covid-19.

​Resources. Video of KNOCA’s learning call on the UK and French Climate Assemblies. A report by CAST reviews the design and deliberations of CAUK and members’ wider perceptions of climate change, comparing findings with the French Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat (CCC). The team leading the official evaluation have published an article on lessons from CAUK. A documentary, The People vs Climate Change on members of CAUK has been aired on BBC.  

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