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The people have their say on climate change

A river that has overflowed its banks.
According to research, climate change will lead to more extreme weather events. The image shows the flooding of the river Svartån in Västerås last autumn (Photo: Mostphotos).
Published Mar 13, 2024

A newly formed citizens' climate assembly will provide new perspectives on the great issue of our time. Sverker Sörlin, professor and one of the citizens' climate assembly's two mentors, believes the citizens' climate assembly can contribute both new and unexpected ideas.

Portrait of researcher
Sverker Sörlin

The idea of a citizens' assembly is to get input on difficult social issues. It has never been tested in Sweden before, but has been used in countries such as Ireland on the issue of abortion and in several other European countries for climate policy. 

After the first meeting on 9-10 March, Sverker Sörlin , professor of environmental history at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and mentor with a mission to inspire and support the assembly, is satisfied:

“It was a successful kick-off with 60 members present. I think it feels both honourable and exciting”

What do you hope to achieve?
“To begin with, a good and constructive process where everyone can have their say and express their thoughts and feelings on the major and important climate issue. I hope it can be like a big study circle where everyone's votes count.”

“Then I hope that unexpected and new ideas about how we can reduce emissions will emerge. We don't lack knowledge about what should be done, but we need more ideas about how to do it in practice and how to do it faster.”

Why do we need a citizens' assembly on climate change?
“Democratic decision-making is one of the key ways to address complex and difficult challenges. But democracy is also about winning votes and gaining power. This can be detrimental to the climate.”

“A citizens' assembly can give politicians guidance and perhaps reassure them that voters will not flee just because a party has an aggressive climate policy. So: lowering thresholds, eliminating doubts. And of course: new ideas. France's decision to ban short-haul flights where fast trains are an option came from a citizens' assembly.”

How important is the legitimacy of climate policy?
“It is always important. Scientifically, the climate issue has very high legitimacy. It is not as strong when it comes to confidence in how the transition affects citizens. This is where a citizens' assembly can also be helpful.”

Text: Christer Gummeson ( )

The Assembly in brief:

  • A total of 7 000 randomly selected people across the country have received an invitation to the citizens' assembly. Almost 500 expressed interest and of these, 60 people have been selected to provide a representative picture of the population.
  •  The aim of the project is to better understand how the public prioritises climate action, to increase the legitimacy of climate action and to counterbalance the influence of lobbyists and special interests on climate policy.
  • The Assembly will meet over two weekends and hold five video meetings. In May, members will vote on their proposals, which will then be presented to the parliamentary parties' climate policy spokespersons.
Belongs to: About KTH
Last changed: Mar 13, 2024