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December newsletter editorial

December 19, 2022
Where are we with climate assemblies? Where next for KNOCA?

We are at an interesting point in the life and times of climate assemblies. With the completion of the Austrian, Luxembourgish and Spanish assemblies, we might reasonably say that we are at the end of the first generation or wave (to use the OECD’s metaphor) of national climate assemblies that began with the French Convention and Climate Assembly UK (or perhaps the Irish Citizens Assembly 2016-18). Depending on what you categorise as a climate assembly (we could go on for hours on that one!), we have now witnessed as many as 10 national-level climate assemblies that have been tasked with a comprehensive engagement with climate policy – typically how to reach net zero or similar, and on occasion, consideration of adaptation as well. This is a big task for any assembly. Possibly too much of an expectation? Assemblies that have followed – on biodiversity loss in Ireland and the UK, and energy poverty in Poland – have chosen tighter policy agendas. Time will tell whether this is a positive development.

The implications of selecting different remits was one of the knowledge development projects (KDPs) that KNOCA commissioned last year. The guidance that these projects produced – preparing for a climate assembly (led by TPXImpact), setting the remit (led by Rinascimento Green) and drivers of impact (led by Bureau Burgerberaad and FIDE) – is available on the KNOCA website, alongside the first version of an impact evaluation framework that we are co-creating with CAST. Through our engagement with commissioners, organisers and civil society organisations, we know that this guidance has been valuable in their work scoping, delivering and monitoring climate assemblies.

KNOCA’s activities have had an effect on the design and implementation of climate assemblies. Members of the management group have actively engaged with national and local actors that are considering organising climate assemblies and have witnessed a shift in the way that they are thinking about assemblies, particularly in terms of designing for impact. We were delighted to participate in the design workshop that has now led to the announcement of a permanent climate assembly in the Brussels-Capital Region. Following the findings of the KDP on the attitudes of climate policy actors, we are actively developing a playbook for NGOs and engaging with a number policy networks to help them better consider the variety of roles they can play in relation to climate assemblies – from governance through to scrutiny. While we recognise the limitations of the COP process, we hosted a session on the role of public participation and citizens assemblies in the implementation of the Paris agreement at the virtual COP 27 Law and Governance day, and contributed to side events at the COP venue itself.

Our various interactions with the KNOCA community and beyond have generated three key areas of new activity that we will prioritise over the coming months. These are areas where we have been asked for guidance, but not much is available.

Together we aim to co-create that guidance:

- Communicating climate assemblies

- Embedding climate assemblies in climate policy and governance

- Selecting and presenting evidence

On top of this, we will continue to develop the impact evaluation framework, learning from its application in different territories and from the insights of KNOCA members.

We also recognise that our focus has tended to be on national assemblies. Innovation in practice is just as likely – or, given the number of initiatives, more likely – at sub-national level. Our aim is to better inform KNOCA’s work through a closer analysis of what is happening at local, city and regional levels.

This is a big agenda which will generate a lot of expectations. A bit like the remits of the first wave of climate assemblies?! But we believe it is manageable, particularly in collaboration with KNOCA members. So, please do make yourself known if you would like to work with us on any of these areas – or if you have ideas for workshops or other activities in other areas of practice. A window of opportunity is opening to shape the next generation of climate assemblies. We need to make sure we shape the future.

Graham Smith - Chair of KNOCA

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