The North of Tyne Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change saw fifty citizens in the region come together to discuss how the region can combat climate change. The Assembly, facilitated by non-profit Shared Future CIC, started on 24 February and ended on 24 March 2021. It ran for a total of thirty hours over eight sessions, at which the Assembly members shared ideas, deliberated on the issues, and then came up with a set of thirty recommendations.
On July 27 2021 Mayor Jamie Driscoll presented the Citizens’ Assembly’s report and a report (written in collaboration with colleagues from Newcastle, North Tyneside, and Northumberland councils) that included initial proposals for NTCA to develop climate emergency projects aligned to the Assembly recommendations to Cabinet.
Olivia Grant, chair of the Citizens’ Assembly Oversight Panel, speaks about the Assembly at the Green Economy Summit June 23
Most of the recommendations related to the themes of housing, transport and energy; however, the Assembly also made wider recommendations, including supporting awareness raising and novel forms of finance for carbon reductions.
The recommendations fall into three broad categories
On September 22 2021 Cabinet received a report outling how NTCA would respond to the Assembly focussing on work around:
On January 25 2022 a report outlining NTCA’s response to Citizens’ Assembly’s recommendations on energy, skills and housing was presented to Cabinet. Cabinet noted reports contents and agreed the approach being taken to respond the Assembly’s recommendations around energy, housing and skills, and to receive future Cabinet reports, proposing how the Combined Authority should respond to other recommendations from the Assembly.
Cabinet approved an allocation of up to £1million to support the initiatives described in the paper, indicatively comprising £0.8m for a programme of advice and support for businesses to help them reduce their carbon emissions and £0.2m for the development of a business case for a major housing retrofit programme.
More details about what we are doing to tackle the climate emergency are in Zero carbon, Zero poverty: Our 5-point plan.
Northumbria Univeristy have been undertaking an evaluation of the Assembly. Their fieldwork has ended and the evaluation report published in late autumn 2022.
In May 2019 upon his election as the North of Tyne Mayor, Mayor Jamie Driscoll declared a climate emergency. The Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change forms part of the Combined Authority’s response. Funding for the Assembly was agreed by Cabinet in February 2020 when they approved plans for a citizens’ assembly on climate change, to enable the people who live in North of Tyne to shape what what happens in region to tackle climate change.
An Oversight Panel was set up to ensure the process is unbiased and fair. It included representatives from Extinction Rebellion, National Education Union, Newcastle City Council, Newcastle University’s Centre for Energy and Department of Politics, North East Chamber of Commerce, North of Tyne Combined Authority, North Tyneside Borough Council, Northumberland County Council, and Tyne and Wear Citizens.
The Oversight Panel made decisions about the recruitment process and the Assembly’s profile; it also selected expert commentators who gave presentations to the Assembly and answered questions from them. They also chose the question for the Assembly to answer: “What should we do in the region to address climate change and its causes fairly, effectively and quickly?”
Oversight Panel member Dr Meryl Batchelder talks about her role
The Citizens’ Assembly was delivered by Shared Future CIC following a tender exericise. Shared Future have run citizens’ assemblies and juries across the country. The Assembly was tasked with examining the region’s response to the emergency of climate change and with producing recommendations that would be presented to Cabinet.
Assembly members were recruited by the Sortition Foundation. NTCA sent out 10,000 letters in December 2020, inviting randomly selected residents of Newcastle, North Tyneside, and Northumberland to take part in a citizens’ assembly. Of the 300 people who responded, the fifty people selected for the Assembly, were chosen to reflect the diversity of the population in the region, (in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, disability, geography, and importantly attitude to climate change). IT equipment and training was provided where it was needed to enable digitally excluded people to participate.
The initial Assembly sessions focussed on the wider topic of climate change, the Assembly members were was asked to identify three topics to focus on. They chose to explore housing, transport and energy in more depth. Members of the Oversight Panel, local councillors, NTCA officers and other stakeholders were able to observe the open sessions of the Assembly. All the presentations by the commentators were videoed and up loaded to the internet to allow Assembly members to watch them again if they wished, to help with their deliberations.
The Assembly process is explained in detail in the Citizens’ Assembly report. The report contains the conclusions of the Assembly, in their own words, in the form of a collective statement and a set of thirty prioritised recommendations in answer to the question: “What should we do in the region to address climate change and its causes fairly, effectively and quickly?”
Assembly members share about their reasons for taking part
“We now see that climate change is a credible, urgent and real threat. It threatens all we value: our families, our communities and our planet. Individuals, communities, businesses and government must all be involved in tackling the climate emergency, putting Climate Change at the forefront and heart of every single decision.
“The Assembly urges the North of Tyne Combined Authority and the three local authorities of North of Tyne to direct all their departments and committees to consider the effects on Climate Change in every decision they make, whenever possible choosing the low carbon solution. This work must be a major priority for our Mayor who must lead the way and lead by example.
“In deciding our action we must place fairness at the centre ensuring that those of us who are vulnerable and marginalised are not further disadvantaged. We must empower and support communities to take urgent, methodical and united action to get to net zero and create an environment in which all life can thrive.
“We have a responsibility to act urgently and leave a fair legacy to conserve what we have and value now. If we don’t act it will be too late. It is imperative that we speak on behalf of future generations as they have no voice. “Our region is one of outstanding beauty, character and a rich history. It is through our community spirit and resilience we will tackle this crisis together.”
The Assembly held eight sessions, two of which were closed. The presentations from expert commentators given at the six open sessions are available to watch below:
In this video Mayor Jamie Driscoll welcomes the Assembly members and talks about why what they think is important for the region
Dr Stephen Elstub, Reader in British Politics, Newcastle University explains critical thinking and bias, includes video on Critical Thinking newDemocracy Foundation. Stephen was a member of the Oversight Panel.
Sir Brian Hoskins, Chair of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, and Dr Elizabeth Lewis, Lecturer in Computational Hydrology, Newcastle University explain what climate change is and talk about its impact now and in the future.
Dr Tracy Crosbie, Reader in Sustainability in the Built Environment, Teesside University talks about where the emissions come from.
Lucy Stone, Fellow at Royal Society of Arts and Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity explains how to effect change and make it happen.
Dr Leanne Wilson, Policy and Economy Advisor for Climate Change, NTCA talks about what the Combined Authority are doing on climate change. Leanne was a member of the Oversight Panel.
Carole Botten, Chief Executive Officer of VONNE – Voluntary Organisations Network North East,
Beth Farhat, Regional Secretary (Northern), Trades Union Congress,
Sir Geoff Palmer, Emeritus Professor in the School of Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, and
Roman Krznaric, author of the book ‘The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long-Term in a Short-Term World’ give their views on the fairness and unfairness in relation to climate change.
How do we make our existing housing better (retrofitting) and make sure new housing is efficient, generates energy and that planning regulations support this?
Callum Smith, Policy and Economy Advisor – Housing and Land Maters, NTCA,
Professor Simin Davoudi, Professor of Environment and Planning, and Director of Global Urban Research Unit, Newcastle University,
Matthew Copeland, Policy Manager, National Energy Action, and
Professor Helen Jarvis, Professor of Social Geography Engagement, Newcastle University.
What needs to happen to reduce the impact of transport on climate change. How do we pay for any changes and ensure that we get better joined up transport systems?
Prof Phil Blythe, Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems, Newcastle University and Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Transport,
Martijn Gilbert, Managing Director, Go North East (buses), and
Jonah Morris, Partnerships Manager North East & Cumbria, Sustrans.
Josh Sawyer, Rural Energy Officer, North East Local Enterprise Partnership,
Tony Quinn, Catapult, Offshore Renewable Energy Forum,
Jim Cardwell, Head of Policy Development, Northern Powergrid, and
Gareth Davies, Aquatera and Chair of Orkney Renewable Energy Forum speak about renewable energy generation.
Citizens’ Assemblies differ from other forms of public engagement because their members are randomly selected to form a representative sample of the population. Citizens’ Assemblies (and the smaller Citizens’ Juries) have been run all over the world to help figure out what to do about big difficult problems.
Assembly members are recruited via invites sent to randomly selected addresses within the area. Individuals from age 15 upwards are invited to join the Assembly. 50 people are selected, from the responses, to reflect the diversity of the region, (in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, disability, geography, and attitude to climate change) using criteria decided by the Oversight Panel.
Assembly members attend a set amount of sessions to share ideas and opinions and to hear from a range of expert commentators who they can question. The Oversight Panel select the commentators for the initial sessions to set the context for the assembly, but after that the group will steer the sessions and identify the topics they wish to explore in their meetings.
Mayor Driscoll speaks to Pete Bryant of Shared Future about the Citizens’ Assembly process.
On October 12 Overview and Scrutiny Committee received a report providing them with an overview of the Citizens’ Assembly. Overview and Scrutiny Committee can investigate, influence, report and recommend ways to strengthen policies, improve services, ensure best value for money and secure long-lasting positive benefits for local people.