Caroline Lucas has called on Parliament to establish a citizens’ assembly to draw up a plan of action on climate breakdown.
In a major speech at the Royal Society of Arts on Monday, the Green Party MP said “in many respects representative democracy provides an incredibly blunt mandate – especially under first past the post” – and suggested that using more deliberative methods “can help iron out the problems with direct democracy”.
Deliberative models such as citizens’ assemblies involve a group of citizens who broadly reflect the make-up and beliefs of the public spending time hearing and interrogating a full range of opinions and working together to reach shared conclusions, which are then fed back to politicians.
Caroline’s comments came after it was reported that ministers came close to abandoning trials of deliberative democracy models. The Government ultimately dropped all proposals to put controversial issues to the public over “deep-seated fears about giving the public a greater democratic voice in the context of Brexit”.
Caroline Lucas said: "The way to save liberal democracy is to keep its core principles – free and fair elections, the rule of law, freedom of speech and association – but fundamentally change the way it works.
"I believe that a significant expansion of the use of deliberative methods can both help renew our ailing democracy and enable us to tackle some of our biggest challenges – of which protecting and restoring the natural world and tackling the accelerating climate crisis are the greatest.
"Environmentalism is not something that should be done to the people – it’s something which should be done with people, and which should, in the process, give citizens fresh agency and hope.
"If we are to get through the climate crisis with our democracy and our society intact, Parliament must urgently establish a citizens' assembly to draw up a plan of action that has the public's consent.
"A country that works for the 21st century – and works for its citizens – will be one that has re-imagined its approach to the environment – but also re-imagined a fair and cohesive society, re-imagined an economy which offers dignity and opportunity, re-imagined a powerful engaging democracy. And re-imagined the relationship between all of these too.
"It is not policy change we need but system change."
Caroline spoke at the RSA at 6pm on Monday. Full speech available here: https://soundcloud.com/the_rsa/we-need-to-talk-about-climate
Contact Sophie Armour: 07885 459 904 / firstname.lastname@example.org