City Council sets out arrangements for Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change

Published: Wednesday, 10th July 2019

Oxford City Council has set out arrangements for the Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change, the first of its kind in the UK.

In January, Oxford City Council members unanimously declared a climate emergency and agreed to create a citizens assembly in Oxford to set out recommendations for how to move the city towards net zero carbon emissions.

An independent Advisory Group has been established to agree the format and objectives for the Citizens Assembly and define the issues it is to consider. Following a meeting last night it was agreed that the Assembly will take place at the Said Business School in Oxford city centre on the weekends of:

  • 28 and 29 September 2019
  • 19 and 20 October 2019

The Assembly will be held over two full weekends during which participants will learn about climate change and explore different options to cut carbon emissions through a combination of presentations from experts and facilitated workshops.

It will consider measures to reduce Oxford’s carbon emissions to net zero and, as part of this, measures that reduce Oxford City Council’s own carbon footprint to net zero by 2030.

The Government has legislated for the UK as a whole to reach net zero by 2050 at the latest; and Oxford City Council has already set a vision to reduce its own emissions to net zero by 2030 at the latest.

As the evidence around man-made climate change is clear and overwhelming, it will be treated as a ‘given’ and the Assembly will not be asked to consider whether or not it is a reality.

The structure of the Assembly will broadly follow guidelines set out by the leading public participation charity Involve. 50 Oxford city residents will be selected through a stratified random process, creating a ‘mini-public’ broadly representative of the demographics of the population. Residents cannot apply to become an Assembly member but all local residents have the potential to be invited to participate. The size of the Assembly will enable citizens with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to come together in detailed discussion on a common issue.

Ipsos MORI has been appointed to undertake the recruitment of participants and provide overall facilitation for the Citizens Assembly. In line with good practice in encouraging full participation, participants will each be paid a £300 honorarium, recognising the time they are giving up to take part and ensuring that a diverse range of people - including those on low-incomes or with caring responsibilities etc. can take part.

Following a series of structured sessions in which they will hear from experts and a range of speakers with different perspectives, participants will be invited to vote on a number of options. The preferred options will form the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly, which will be published and presented to Oxford City Council to consider for adoption.

While the Citizens Assembly sessions will not be open to the general public, in line with Involve guidelines, there will be a small number of spaces for observers. Opportunities to observe the sessions will be advertised nearer the time. All presentations made by speakers at the Assembly will be videoed and published, along with other materials shared with participants.

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “The climate emergency we all face means we need to make some fundamental changes in the way we live. Oxford is already demonstrating leadership in driving those changes, for example in the shift to electric vehicles, our community energy programmes and the forthcoming pilot of a giant battery and smart grid within the city. So I’m delighted that we will also be the first city in the UK to hold a Citizens Assembly to help shape our collective response to climate change. We’re working with University of Oxford academics, community groups and others to shape its programme.

“The City Council will take a lead; we’ve already made clear we want to cut our carbon emissions to zero by 2030 at the latest. But, our own carbon footprint represents just one per cent of emissions in Oxford and we want the Citizens Assembly to help set a course for the city as a whole and for everyone to do their bit.”

The members of the Advisory group are:

  • Cllr Susan Brown, Leader, Oxford City Council (Labour) - Chair
  • Cllr Andrew Gant; Opposition Leader, Oxford City Council (Liberal Democrats)
  • Cllr Dick Wolff, Member, Oxford City Council (Green) 
  • Cllr James Mills, Leader, West Oxfordshire District Council (Conservative)
  • Professor Steve Fisher, Political Sociology, University of Oxford
  • Professor Myles Allen, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford
  • Mark Beard, Chairman/Mark Gregory, Bid Manager, Beard Construction
  • Richard Pantlin, Oxford Citizens Assembly Network
  • Zuhura Plummer, Oxford Extinction Rebellion
  • Nigel Carter, Secretary /Hassan Sabrie, Chair, East Oxford United