K-PACE – Kingston’s ambitious Peoples Assembly on the Climate Emergency – wants to significantly influence the national conversation in the post COP-26 lull in early 2022. 

We want to do this in conjunction with similar assemblies around the country. We intend that all of these will be doing deep dive workshops looking at a specific area of de-carbonisation around the same time. This will magnify our impact.

Our first deep dive will consider how to significantly de-carbonise transport in our local area. The next might look at building use and insulation, etc. 

Each event will – initially – put aside how decarbonisation would be funded, and the constraints imposed by laws and regulations. We do this so that people can come to see that these are barriers holding us back, and must be pushed aside. The aim is to shape the law, regulations, taxation, politics and social norms so that we build the momentum for rapid change.

Then, collectively, we want to announce something like

Many Assemblies around the country show that net zero is possible by 203x!

Our priorities are

  1. Build a national movement for a faster transition, based around Peoples Assemblies
  2. Get the headline nationwide
  3. Strengthen conversations about a faster transition locally
  4. Become a prototype for new bottom up ways of decision making

Why a Peoples Assembly?

Most of us are well aware that the yah-boo politics we see in Parliament is serving us badly. There’s little focus on listening to each other, nor on getting agreement from as many people as possible. The style of oppositional debate we see there, along with the emotional triggers we get from social media are driving us into polarised tribes. And, increasingly, all we can do is shout at each other.

The COVID-19 crisis has brought into view the excessive influence that business has over government. We’ve seen the corruption that comes from the small well-connected network of people, who’ve been to the top public schools and Oxbridge, doing private deals. More and more, we see government programmes intended to solve big problems benefiting the owners of private business. They take no notice of the wishes of people affected, and often fail to do the job intended too. Test, track and trace being the most obvious example of many (see this from the British Medical Journal).

With a problem so huge and complex as the Climate Emergency, we need new ways of decision making. We must ensure that everyone is heard, and that the vast majority of the population understand and buy-in to the agreed interventions. We also have to ensure that half-baked programmes, designed to enrich the already wealthy, aren’t foisted on us, 

Peoples and Citizens Assemblies, although still in their infancy, have been designed to overcome both these problems. They allow a variety of experts to share their knowledge and give their opinions. But in the end, the conclusions are decided by the participants. This 18 min video tells the story of how Citizens Assemblies in Ireland helped change their constitution.

We’re calling this a Peoples Assembly to show it is not commissioned by the Government. But we will run it to the professional standards that people have come to expect from Citizens Assemblies.

As we made clear earlier, this set of assemblies is not intended to directly influence government. Instead we want to catalyse a growing movement of people committed to making ambitious change, united around a series of Assemblies.

Many assemblies

We’re talking with people in other places who are interested in the idea of a coordinated approach. Clearly, the more places involved – the bigger the impact. We’ll tell you more when we have some definite alliances.

Whilst most of these Assemblies will be held separately, some might be held UK wide, when looking at sectors that are best addressed by coordinated actions at both nationwide and local levels.

We’re keen to get representation from a wide range of diverse groups, and so our promotion activities will reflect this.

Deep dive workshops

We envisage a series of day long assemblies each focusing in detail on different topics eg transport, building efficiency, food and land use, embodied emissions in consumer products, the huge emissions of the 1%, electricity generation etc.

Each day will follow a similar pattern of

  1. First reviewing relevant local data. So for the transport assembly, this would consist of numbers and distances of journeys for leisure & holidays, school and work commuting, shopping; and an analysis of which kinds of transport were used – including by air and sea. 
  2. This would be followed by presentations on a range of ambitious intervention projects. And people from the floor might propose other projects too. 
  3. Participants would look closely at the details of those projects – each at different tables. They’d consider issues such as how many emissions would be saved, how fast we could make the change etc.
  4. Then, groups of people would sit around a screen showing a software emissions model with sliders. They’d experiment by combining some of the projects to get a fast reduction in emissions. In doing this they would learn the tradeoffs involved in combining some of the projects. And they’d aim to reach consensus as to what package of projects would be appropriate to their area. 

Use of such a model will both add additional reality & focus for those in the workshop, and give considerable weight to the national news headlines.

Practical proposals

Here are the sorts of proposal we have in mind.

Local authority run solar, hydro or wind generation plants – not currently allowed by law – would face objections from current mega-suppliers
Rapid substitution of domestic gas heating by heat pumps – these are currently too expensive for most householders to consider – so subsidies would be necessary – would face objections from the gas industry
Introduction of low cost electric buses – and ride sharing services called through an app – would require subsidies to reduce fares – would face objections from the car industry and perhaps bus operators too

Impact of our announcement

Our primary aim is to get a nationwide public announcement. This is intended to both energise those who are concerned but inactive, and bring those who are active into a powerful movement for change. We see a nationwide movement emerging that works towards faster decarbonisation in a collective way. And this will support those in each locality who are already arguing for ambitious solutions and behavioural change.

The announcement is unlikely to have a significant impact on the Johnson government. They may borrow some of our ideas, and perhaps listen more carefully if local climate catastrophes occur. But, we believe, future governments of other colours are likely to listen more carefully.

And, who knows, might this become a prototype for new bottom up ways of decision making? To properly address the crises of mental health or care of the elderly?!!!

What we’re doing

Right now we’re forming a circle of transport specialists and academics to come up with a list of the proposals for de-carbonising the transport sector fast. This will be one of the starting points for our first deep-dive event.

And we’re also assembling a group to help us find or build a suitable emissions model for use in the events. As well as – of course – talking to possible partners in other cities.

Join us!

So if you like what you’ve read, take a look at our news. Do, also like us on Facebook.

But most of all please consider how you – or your friends – might contribute to make this exciting project happen! We need all sorts of skills and expertise. Our current needs are listed here. And if you’ve something else to offer don’t let that stop you getting in touch!

Thank you. Together we can steer the United Kingdom to an ambitious low-carbon future!