Climate assemblies are becoming more common across the world as governments and others consider how best to tackle the climate crisis .As their use has grown, so has interest in how they are commissioned, run, and evaluated. Research into their impact on decision-makers has also increased. However very few studies have looked at the long-term impact on assembly members themselves. Sarah Allan discusses new research that shows this impact could be long-lasting and cover changes in both attitudes and behaviours.
Climate Assembly UK was commissioned by six select committees of the House of Commons to examine the question, ‘How should the UK reach its climate target of net zero emissions by 2050?’. It brought together 108 members of the public who together broadly reflected the UK population in terms of their demographics, climate attitudes and geography. Assembly members met over six weekends to hear evidence from speakers with a wide range of different perspectives, discuss what they thought with one another and reach their conclusions.
The focus of the assembly was on providing input to the six select committees to inform their work. Assembly members were not asked to make changes to their own lives, nor were they given information or support aimed at helping them to do so. And yet, in the weeks and months after the assembly ended, its members started telling me and my colleagues Involve about changes they were making to how they lived. They had bought an electric car, become a parish councillor, started a climate-friendly business, and more. Our interest was piqued. Were the people contacting us the exception or had lots of assembly members made similar changes?
We teamed up with Stephen Elstub and Jayne Carrick from Newcastle University to find out. Together we sent assembly members two additional research surveys – one in April 2021, roughly a year after the end of the assembly events, and the second in September 2022, two years after the launch of the assembly’s final report. 73% of assembly members responded to one or both of the surveys and gave permission for the Newcastle University team to use their results. Analysis shows that the small number of differences between these assembly members’ backgrounds and attitudes, and those of the assembly members who filled out our research surveys during the assembly, do not explain our findings.Continue reading