Citizens’ Assemblies as Instigators for Climate Action
The erosion of liberal democracies is arguably a sign of our times. Autocratic politics, surveillance, and extremist ultranationalist populist tropes have gained ground globally. So, too, has the urgency of the crisis of climate change become a defining feature of this era, requiring bold action to avert ecological and social disaster.
If we are to draw any lessons from the current coronavirus pandemic, one most certainly must be how it has exposed modern nation states’ vulnerabilities and their general incapacity to plan for and grapple adequately with the complex “wicked problems” and escalated change in an interdependent global world. Crises on the scale of climate change are bound to be far more devastating than anything we have known. Can democracies, so grounded in the short term and so beholden to vested interests, tackle the immense, long-term challenges required to decarbonize economies and shift to sustainable societies?
The paper posits not only that democracies can, but also that they must experiment and re-invigorate themselves to meet the challenges ahead. It presents the case for participatory innovative practices as an important pathway for democratic renewal and for bolder and more ambitious climate action in Israel. A special focus is laid on one deliberative democratic format, the Citizens’ Assembly, that has gained in popularity around the world of late, especially around climate-related issues.
This policy paper outlines suggestions for convening citizens’ assemblies and identifies a pathway forward for Israeli society.
Table of contents
1. Executive Summary
3. Democracy and Climate Change: Conjoined Crises in the 21st Century
- The Democratic Malaise
- Digital Effects
- The Israeli Context: A Strained Democracy
- Democracy and Climate Change: The Need for Joint Solutions
4. Participatory Approaches and Democratic Innovations –Literature Review and Policy Options
- The Evolution of Participatory Practices
- The Purpose of Public Participation
- Critiques and Concerns Regarding Public Participation
5. Democratic Innovation and Climate Change Transformation
- The Growth of Citizens’ Assemblies
- Benefits of Citizens’ Assemblies
- How Do Citizens’ Assemblies Work?
6. Could a Citizens’ Assembly Work in Israel?
- Barriers to Change
- Crisis as Opportunity
- Weighing the Options
- Where to Begin?
- Beyond Gradualism – Institutionalizing Change
8. Appendix: Proposed Route Map for Citizens’ Assemblies in Israel