In response to a proposal by Wiltshire Council to consult on their climate policy, the following letter was published in the Salisbury Journal on 9 September 2021.
[The Journal] reported that Wiltshire Council has launched a consultation on its Climate Strategy (Consultation on council’s Climate Strategy now live, 2nd September). Although engagement with the public is always to be welcomed, we question however whether this is the best way to get a proper and balanced view on this important subject.
Salisbury Democracy Alliance has argued that a much better approach would be achieved by using a citizens’ assembly. This method selects a truly representative group of people who then meet over a period of three weekends and, advised by experts, discuss the topic in some considerable depth.
This method has been applied very successfully in several parts of the UK and among its most notable successes have been in Northern Ireland.
The problem with the consultation proposed by Wiltshire Council is that it will attract the ‘usual suspects’ and those with vested interests to protect or promote. It also limits views to those put before them by the council and hence might inhibit new thinking.
Climate – as we have seen around the world in recent months – is a hugely important subject and merits a properly organised citizens’ assembly which will provide a genuine and informed contribution to policy formulation. Importantly, it will demonstrate proper involvement by citizens and counter any belief that this is another set of policies which the council is imposing on them.