International Model Citizens’ Assembly

Sunday April 25  :  19.00 to 21.30 GMT

Online via Zoom

This International Model Citizens’ Assembly explores priority solutions to the Climate Emergency.  If you apply below to be a member of the Jury, you may be selected to be a member of a group of 21 citizens balanced by age, gender and other criteria who put questions directly to the experts. If you apply to be an audience member, you feed your questions through the Jury. Both then get to deliberate and, at the end of the Assembly, use the online polling facility to determine their priorities. All Jury Applicants who do NOT get selected as Jury members are automatically enrolled as audience members.

What happens now?

You will receive an automated acknowledgement of your registration. The Jury Applications will close at 18.00GMT/BST on Thursday April 22.  Later that night, all jury applicants will be told if they have been selected for the Jury – or automatically enrolled as audience members.  On Friday April 23 , all Jury and Audience members will receive their log-in instructions. These will be sent again 24-hours and 1-hour ahead of the Assembly. 

You are encouraged to read the background information below ahead of the Assembly.

Your priorities will be sent to our Expert Witnesses and who will review them ahead of the assembly.

At the Assembly you will –

  • Listen to 5-6 minute presentations from the Expert Witnesses: Paul Ekins (UCL, UK); Nicolas Berghmans (IDDRI, France);  Elizabeth May(Green Party, Canada); Idman Abdurahaman (Climate Justice Activist, UK); Ravi Theja Muthu (Eco-entrepreneur, India); Ivan Zassoursky (Moscow State University, Russia). The Host / Facilitator will be Ella Faye Donley – an actor/ director and Climate activist from the UK; See Expert Witness Biographies here;
  • Learn – put your questions / priorities to them; they will answer, discuss and debate them 
  • Deliberate – discuss and prioritise what you know and what you have learned from the witnesses
  • Decide – first the Jury, then the Audience, will vote for their top priority actions for Glasgow In an online poll

The young team hosting this event seek to focus on economic drivers (carbon taxes etc.) which many experts see as a major solution to the Climate Emergency. From the priorities agreed at this IMCA, we’ll develop a business case to put to UN and government representatives at a second IMCA on Sunday June 6 2021

Learn more about the MCA process here

“What priorities must we lobby for at the Glasgow Climate Summit?”

  • Increase the ambition of your government’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)
  • End Fossil Fuel Subsidies immediately?
  • Phase out live meat production: incentivize vegan and vegetarian eating habits?
  • Tax, and eventually criminalise, the production, sale and use of all Fossil Fuels?
  • Fully fund the $100 billion Loss & Damage Climate Mitigation Fund?
  • Devise new Institutional Arrangements (eg. a Digital Citizens UN) to protect future generations from Climate change and a depleted natural environment?

More important: HOW are we going to achieve any of them?

Everyone who talks about the Glasgow Climate Summit will say that the only thing that we, the citizens, can do is to persuade our governments to “increase the ambition of their Nationally Determined Carbon(NDCs) reduction targets.”  They have a point: before the Paris Agreement of 2015, the world was on track to 3.5 degrees of global warming, 2 degrees shy of the 1.5 degree target. After Paris, it was 2.9 – better but not nearly enough. Though some, mostly European, governments have kept their promises, many – including some of the biggest polluters: Trump’s USA, Bolsonaro’s Brazil and Putin’s Russia – have not.  The question for us citizens, therefore, is not just: “What promises do we want our governments to make in Glasgow?” but, perhaps more importantly, “How do we get them to keep those promises?”  As Sir Partha Dasgupta said in his recent review: “our world lacks the institutional arrangements to protect public goods such as the climate, the ocean or the rainforests.” In other words, we don’t have a UN system with sufficient teeth to bring rogue governments into line.

And while we have governments who are careless and irresponsible about their children’s future, that situation is unlikely to change.

What can we do?  Or are we doomed?  We have to first acknowledge what Dasgupta says: right now, we don’t the institutional arrangements in place to enforce the behaviours we need to adopt. So it’s not looking good. However, one has to believe that a big majority of the human family do NOT want to commit suicide. So – it is up to us to grab the wheel and, by our purchasing decisions, our votes, our  protests and, if necessary, our General Strikes, to force all governments to do the right thing. Our generational challenge is to haul humanity back from the brink and set ourselves on a course towards a green, sustainable way of life for all of us. 

Besides the NDCs, there are many and various  priorities coming up for discussion in Glasgow – including the imperatives of, finally, ending the $4 to $6 trillion in subsidies to the Fossil Fuel industry and the “absolutely ridiculous” decision of the Boris Johnson government to allow the building of the Coalmine in Cumbria. However in this Model Citizens’ Assembly, our young managers have chosen to focus on Economic Drivers – the best introduction to which is the Carbon Dividends plan, which has been endorsed by 3,500 US Economists and 28 Nobel prize winners.  It proposes an intelligent way to introduce  carbon taxes,  and carbon pricing,  repeating the argument we’ve been making since 1992, that until and unless humanity agrees to pay the actual cost of repairing the damage caused by emitting carbon into the atmosphere, we’re never going to get close to the Net Zero emissions that every climate scientist agrees lies at the heart of solving this crisis.

Yet – just as you can’t persuade turkeys to vote for Christmas – so, most of the time, you cannot get citizens in democracies to vote for increased taxes. Back at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, experts like Lester Brown mad the case for them so compellingly, we weree all confident that we would get them. But we haven’t: Lester’s Earth Policy Institute continues to call for  80% cuts by 2020 and argue that The most efficient means of restructuring the energy economy to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels is a carbon tax.The Carbon Dividends Statement, states:

“A carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed necessary. A consistently rising carbon price will encourage technological innovation and accelerate the diffusion of carbon-efficient goods and services. A border carbon adjustment system will create an incentive for other nations to adopt similar carbon pricing. A rising carbon tax will benefit the most vulnerable by ensuring they receive more in “carbon dividends” than they pay in increased energy prices.”

But HOW???  That is the question we’re seeking to answer in this MCA – and it is a question we have to answer as a planetary family, which is why we are making this our first Intl. MCA. 

The London School of Economics has published a useful paper on How to make Carbon Taxes more acceptable and our lead speaker, Paul Ekins, has spent most of his working life exploring the issue of Carbon Taxes: he edited the landmark study, Carbon Energy Taxation, and there are many interviews and presentations by him available on Youtube. Paul teaches at University College London at their Institute of Sustainable Resources, which is part of  The Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources.

Most of us will remember President Macron’s failed attempt to get Carbon Taxes introduced in France – an initiative that met with huge resistance from the Gilets Jaunes movement which forced him to back down. The story of the Yellow Vest Protests is explained in this article by France 24:

The trigger for the Yellow Vest uprising was an unpopular fuel tax, ostensibly designed to finance France’s transition to a green economy (though it soon became apparent that its proceeds would mostly be used to plug a budget deficit widened by the government’s tax cuts for the wealthy). The levy infuriated motorists in rural and suburban areas starved of public transport and other services, where households are heavily reliant on their cars.

Nicolas Berghsman, from IDDRI – one of the leading environmental Research Institutes in France – will be relating his thoughts about why this initiative failed – and what might be done differently next time.

An equally famous example of how NOT to introduce carbon taxes can be drawn from the experience of the Australian Labour party, whose failure to get carbon taxes accepted by the Australian electorate led to the election of the coal-toting prime minister, Scott Robinson.

One of a handful of places that has made a success of Carbon Taxes is British Columbia, Canada – which has had them since 2007.  We shall be hearing from Elizabeth May, a former leader of the Canadian Green Party on how they did it, why it has lasted and what its shortcomings are. After a lifetime working on climate economics here in the UK, Paul Ekins told us that success or failure in solving the climate crisis would be made in Asia. So we shall hear from Ravi Theja Muthu, a serial eco-entrepreneur who has been working on Climate Friendly business start-ups since his late teens. His latest is Waste Knot – an initiative to increase the incomes, and sustainability, of Indias half million litter pickers. We shall also hear from Idman Abdurahaman – a campaigner for Climate Justice originally from Somalia, who will point out that almost all current strategies negatively affect the Global South – and this is a priority to be addressed in Glasgow  And finally, we shall be hearing from Russian Climate Expert, Ivan Zassoursky, on what Russia would like us to be lobbying for in Glasgow – as that vast country wakes up to the need for Action to stem the Climate Emergency. Russia and the west don’t agree on many things – but the Russian scientist, Vladimir Vernadsky, is seen by many as the grand-father of sustainability theory, and, on the imperative of dealing with the Climate Emergency, we all know we need to be on the same page.  Ivan is advising our Russian colleague, Stas Namin, on a new version of the Peace Child show to be premiered in Moscow this autumn which presents a compelling story of how the Climate Emergency will be tackled.  

But the purpose of a Citizens’ Assembly is to come up with ideas that the experts haven’t thought of yet – or ways to implement their ideas that take account of the daily lives of that grossly over-used term: “ordinary citizens….”  So – we want YOUR answers as to what we should be lobbying for in Glasgow. Your ideas for how we implement these carefully argued ideas – which experts have been arguing for for decades but which some how governments never get around to implementing. That has to change. NOW.  Let’s start making those changes by the agreements we make on April 25.

 

Historic Background 

Ever since the release of Al Gore’s film, Inconvenient Truth, in 2006, there has been pretty much universal acceptance that Climate Change is happening and – inconveniently – it is likely to make life on earth all but impossible by the end of this century. The point is made equally compellingly in hundreds of books – perhaps most compellingly by Mark Lynas in his book, Six Degrees (2008) – which shows how life becomes increasingly impossible with each degree of global warming. Scientists have set the limit for life on earth at two degrees of global warming. At the Paris Climate Change Summit, that target was reduced to 1.5 degrees by island states which risk disappearing under the ocean. Continuing current lifestyles and business practices would mean that we’d hit 4.5 degrees by the end of the Century. And, though the public are aware, and governments are making encouraging noises about Green New Deals and phasing out petrol-engined cars by 2040, many feel they are not moving nearly fast enough to ward off the crisis.

In an update of Six Degrees called Our Final Warning (2020), Lynas points out that, despite all the efforts of Environmentalists since Earth Day 50 years ago, Global Warming has continued its inexorable upward rise, as indicated by the most famous graph in climate science, the Keeling Curve:

Lynas argues:

  • “All our solar panels, wind turbines, electric cars, lithium-ion batteries, LED light-bulbs, nuclear plants, biogas digesters, press conferences, declarations, pieces of paper; all our shouting and arguing, weeping and marching, reporting and ignoring, decrying and denying; all our speeches, movies, websites, lectures, books, celebrity interventions; all our announcements, carbon-neutral targets, moments of joy and despair… None of these have so much as made the slightest dent in the steepening upward slope of the Keeling Curve.”

That is why this Citizen’s Assembly is perhaps the most important one to do.  The argument is no longer between those who support climate science – and those who deny it. That argument, though sadly not over (see below) is essentially won.  The argument now is how fast we should move to deal with the emergency. The first question: “What do we have to do to stop it?” – allows for a general, wide-focussed discussion ranging over a wide variety of topics – from phasing out fossil fuels, to becoming vegetarian, reducing travel, adopting sustainable land use methods etc. etc.  The Second question is much more specific. And Radical: “Should we make the production, sale and use of fossil fuels a criminal offence by 2030?”  The question is inspired by a passage from the last chapter of Our Final Warning.  Lynas writes:

  • “We have to cease work right now on all power plant building sites constructing coal-, oil- or gas-fired plants. We also need to stop selling cars and trucks – anything with an internal combustion engine – straight away, as well as home boilers, aircraft and shipping, cement kilns, blast furnaces and other industrial infrastructure. All of it must be cancelled, whatever the implications for jobs and the economy. If we cannot, or will not, do this, we must be honest and let go of the 1.5 degree target….”

The question sets the tone for the Assembly. The Second question has a YES / NO answer – which is easier to manage and, like a sports event, a straight fight with a winner and a loser and thus, potentially, more appealing to audiences. The First question allows the Assembly to come up with more of an action plan which could be used a lobbying tool with local authorities etc. The first thing you must do is to frame your MCA question in a way that will have broad, intergenerational appeal in your community.

Because the Climate Emergency’s impact is likely to be so much greater on future generations than today’s older people, we urge you to train up and empower young witnesses for this MCA. On the first question, there are no “sides” – no arguments.  It is a group of people – young and old – presenting, passionately, what they feel needs to be done, by when. On the second question, as in a Model UN, one group has to get inside the heads of industry lobbyists and politicians to argue why it is simply NOT POSSIBLE to deliver a rapid transition to a fossil-free world. It is a powerful, plausible case which humanity has internalised and followed for the last 50 years. “It’s impossible to change that fast…” say the politicians and economists. They may be right, but the counter-argument is supported by the science as countless books and reports – and the leadership of the UN itself – tell us.

Your decision on which question to go for should be dictated by which “Next Steps” you want to pursue.  Discuss and decide this first, and then decide which question leads you, seamlessly, into those next steps. 

It is tempting to say that a short history of the Climate Emergency begins and ends with the Keeling Curve. It is the thermometer reading that shows our planet is sick – and getting sicker. It was born in a campsite in Big Sur, California where a young geochemist, Charles Keeling, tested out an instrument he’d made himself to measure the levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. Keeling was ridiculously meticulous – measuring samples of the clear Pacific air every few hours. And his measure was very simple: carbon parts per million(PPM). For every million molecules of gas in the atmosphere, how many were carbon dioxide?  In that first experiment in 1953, he found it was 310ppm.  He found the level very similar in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, and the deserts of Arizona.  The Scripps Institute of Oceanography put Keeling together with Henry Wexler who ran the U.S. Weather Bureau’s observation station on the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii – and together, starting in 1959, they measured the PPM of the planet every day for ever after. Intriguingly, they found PPM falling in spring and summer – as new foliage sucked more carbon out of the atmosphere – only to rise again in autumn and winter as the leaves fell: that gives the Keeling curve its zig-zag appearance as the planet breathes in and out with the seasons.

By 1967, a team led by Syukuro Manabe at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had extrapolated from the Keeling Curve the prediction that doubling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases global temperatures.  Further, by examining tiny pockets of air trapped in polar ice sheets, scientists were able to measure PPM levels from hundreds, even thousands, of years ago. These showed that, though PPM levels had remained constant up to about the time of the industrial revolution, since then, they have rocketed upwards, showing the direct link between industrial activity, population growth and CO2 levels, a link confirmed by Michael Mann’s “hockey stick curve.”

The summer of 1988 was the hottest since measurements began – and it saw widespread drought and wildfires within the United States. When NASA scientist, James Hansen, delivered testimony to congress that global warming was upon us in June 1988, the media and the public paid attention.

Indeed, ever since the publication of Rachel Carson’s landmark book, Silent Spring, in 1962 – there had been a small, but growing environmental movement around the world.  Earth Day 1970 mobilised 20 million Americans in a movement that led directly to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, protecting millions from infections and thousands of species from extinction. Around the world, tens of thousands of environmental groups were springing up – and established organisations like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth saw their membership numbers rocket upwards. This first wave of public interest peaked in 1992 when the first UN Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: for two weeks, every broadcast news channel in the world led with stories of how humanity needed to do more to “save the environment.”

In 1989, the UN had established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which, ahead of Rio, drew up the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with the goal of “stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that prevents human-induced interference with the climate system within a time-frame sufficient to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.”  

This led directly to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 which called on UN member states to reduce their emissions of 6 x greenhouse gases to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. [Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main greenhouse gas but Kyoto identified five other gasses: methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen triflouride (NF3) that are equally damaging to the climate.] BUT – the protocol was only signed by industrialised countries, not less economically developed countries. This was why, though US president Bill Clinton signed Kyoto, President Bush called it “fatally flawed” and withdrew the US from it, saying that it would hurt the U.S. economy.  And perhaps it was fatally flawed, for though 197 Nation States have now signed up to the UNFCCC, and though signatory nations have met every year at Conferences of the Parties(COPs) since 1994, the Keeling Curve and global temperatures have climbed steadily upwards.

Not that public interest in the issue had weakened: Clinton’s Vice President, Al Gore, who’d written compellingly, in Earth in the Balance, of the need for a Global Marshall Plan to deal with the planet’s ecological predicament, went on, in 2006, to make An Inconvenient Truth – which became a landmark witness to the fact of the climate emergency, winning Gore an Oscar and a Nobel Prize. Tens of thousands of NGO activists and pressure-groups braved the arctic cold of Copenhagen in December 2009 to pile pressure on government delegates to reach a binding deal on Climate Change. The build-up to this 15th COP involved more money, more celebrities, more scientists and more media pressure than any before it. And yet – it was universally agreed to be a failure. Mark Lynas, who was advising a small island state delegation, witnessed how the Chinese delegation wrecked the deal which almost every other UN member state was ready to sign.

 

The ‘Catastrophe in Copenhagen’ was a massive blow to environmental NGOs. It took a long time for many of them to recover and lobby the UN’s next big conference: Rio+20 which famously promoted the idea of a Green Economy, an idea developed at the UN Environment Programme. The idea of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to replace the remarkably successful MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) was also born there. So – though the conference itself was possibly even more frustrating than Copenhagen, it prepared the ground for the UN’s most successful year of the 21st Century: 2015.

The two big successes of 2015 were the September agreement by the UN General Assembly on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the December agreement at COP 21 in Paris where 196 governments signed up to the UN’s first legally binding international treaty on climate change. This was the result of remarkable leadership within the United Nations involving a decision NOT to impose a top-down set of climate change targets. Rather, each nation was invited to come up with their own Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – to the overall goal.  The Paris formula realised that the initial NDCs would not be sufficiently ambitious, but set in place a procedure for ratcheting up the NDCs every five years so that the target – set at 2 degrees of global warming, but with the ambition to keep it below 1.5 degrees – would be met by mid-century. The NDCs submitted at Paris would result in 3.2 degrees of global warming – more than double the 1.5 degree target: everyone knew that. But it was a start!

That is why public action and pressure remains so important – and, across the world, it has increased and intensified. In 2015, a UN survey – Myworld2015 – found that Action on Climate Change came bottom in public assessment of global priorities.

By 2019, Pew Research found that, in half the countries it surveyed, climate change was perceived to be the top threat. Part of that change is due to global movements like Extinction Rebellion – which mobilised millions of people to occupy city centres arguing for governments to “Tell the Truth” about climate change. Equally significant is the Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, who in August 2018 protested in front of the Swedish Parliament with a sign stating: “School Strike for Climate.” By November 2018, over 17,000 students in 24 countries had joined her monthly Fridays for the Future climate strikes. On 15 March 2019, over a million went on strike – rising to 4 million on 20 September. To avoid flying, she sailed to New York in a small boat to speak at the UN Climate Summit:  her 4-minute speech is widely seen as the “Gettysburg address of climate oratory.” Thunberg became the youngest ever Time Person of the Year in 2019 and was nominated for a Nobel Prize.

Books, films and media programmes have proliferated into a colossal global industry: thousands of books and films have been produced, and pressure groups created, to trumpet the dangers of Climate Change and promote solutions to it. The focus has gradually moved away from the dangers – highlighted by Mark Lynas’s Six Degrees – towards Green Economy solutions and the idea of a Green New Deal, initiated by the Sunrise movement in the USA and now championed by politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the USA is a major plank of incoming US President Joe Biden’s policy agenda.  In the EU, Commission President, Ursula van der Leyen, is promoting a Green New Deal plan to spend €1 trillion to create a zero carbon Europe by 2050.  China has promised to become zero carbon by 2060.

But is it enough: many climate / eco-groups in Europe and around the world fear it is “too little – too late.”  That is why they are campaigning to bring the transition to a 100% green economy forward to 2030 – 2025 in some Extinction Rebellion documents. The scientific consensus is made clear in every UNFCCC report, and other peer-reviewed journals. The current UN Secretary General states in speech after speech, that “Governments around the world should declare a state of climate emergency until the world has reached net zero CO2 emissions…” And yet, even in this year of COVID, the Keeling Curve continues to creep upwards. CO2  rose by more than 50% between 2000 and 2010 – and keeps rising.

There remains significant opposition to Green New Deals – and to the idea that Climate Change is even happening. Climate change deniers have powerful supporters: From 1997 to 2017, the Koch family foundations spent $127 million on close to 100 organizations who hired experts to undermine climate science. Exxon Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute created the Global Climate Coalition – a large coalition of businesses which worked to undermine climate science, and prevent legislation curbing carbon emissions. These groups made the US Republican Party into a climate denying party.  But it wasn’t just in the USA: in the UK, former British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, set up the Global Warming Policy Foundation which argues that “Global warming orthodoxy is not merely irrational. It is wicked….” – and that “asking the hundreds of millions of people in dire poverty to abandon the cheapest available sources of energy is asking them to delay the conquest of malnutrition and to increase the numbers of premature deaths.”

Even today, as climate change is acknowledged by almost all world leaders as a critical threat, Climate Denial continues and becomes more aggressive. The US Republican Party chose Donald Trump as its candidate in 2016 partly because he believed that Climate Change was a “Chinese Hoax.” As candidate, Trump campaigned on a slogan of “I dig coal!” ( – even though economics, not politics, are driving the decline in coal use in the USA,) As President, Trump pulled the USA out of the Paris Climate Change agreement.

Denial continues outside of the USA: in 2019, Bjørn Lomborg, a Danish climate skeptic, published False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet.  In 2020, CLINTEL, a research group based in the Netherlands, got 500 scientists to sign their European Climate Declaration which argues that There is no climate emergency…” and that current climate policies “ignore the fact that enriching the atmosphere with CO2 is beneficial.” Climate Deniers were also helped by Planet of the Humans – a movie produced by Michael Moore which shows that many of the green technologies promoted by environmental activists did not work.

Trump is now defeated, and COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2021 may be the moment when climate deniers are finally silenced. It is not worth running a Citizen Assembly about whether or not Climate Change is happening because, right now, pure science and the vast majority of political leaders agree that it is. 30,000 delegates will arrive in Glasgow determined to get UN Member governments to –

  • improve their NDC commitments,
  • contribute to the UN’s $100 billion dollar climate mitigation fund,
  • strengthen the provisions of the clauses relating to loss and damage from climate change – and –
  • recommit to the main aim of the Paris Agreement: to keep global average temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – if possible, to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Expect the summit to focus on the good news – not the terrifying stories of a dystopian future: the Climate Change debate has moved beyond that, just as, rightly or wrongly, the Climate Deniers will be ignored!  We have the technologies; we have the momentum; we need the legislation to force humanity away from the destructive effects of fossil fuels, meat-eating and their other unsustainable behaviours. Your Model Citizen’s Assembly should choose a topic that challenges your community to think, creatively, – out of the box – about the future: about a low-carbon, prosperous future with green jobs and sustainable contentedness for all.

Global Optimism has called the next ten years: ‘the most consequential decade in human history.’  Future generations require that, during it, we make the correct, informed decisions.  Then Act upon them.

Let an MCA on the Climate Emergency be your first step.