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Citizens’ assembly on climate change focused on net zero 2050 goal

The first citizens’ assembly on climate change is being launched this weekend which will see 110 Britons discuss how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach net zero by 2050.

People from across the country and from different backgrounds are involved in the citizen's assembly, ranging in age from 16 to 79 and including parents, health workers and engineers.

While the body - commissioned by six parliamentary select committees - has no legal powers, their discussions will inform a report that will be sent to parliament in April containing recommendations on how the UK can meet its climate change targets.

The citizens have been drawn from more than 1,800 people who responded to 30,000 invitations sent out to UK households selected at random and are representative of the UK population in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, education and where they live.

Participants will meet in the city of Birmingham over four weekends from January to March to consider how Britain can best meet the 2050 target.

The £520,000 scheme has been funded through £120,000 from the select committees’ research budgets and two philanthropic foundations - the Esme Fairburn Foundation and the European Climate Foundation - which have had no input into the working of the assembly.

The group will look at areas such as buildings, transport and consumption of goods, as well as giving their views on a range of options presented to them for tackling climate change.

Britain saw a surge in climate activism last year with civil disobedience movement Extinction Rebellion occupying sites in central London, blocking roads and targeting financial institutions and government buildings.

Extinction Rebellion welcomed the chance for the public to have a say, but said the assembly was effectively “toothless”, as the government would be free to ignore its recommendations.

“That is obviously a massive worry,” said spokeswoman Marijn van de Geer.

She called for Britain to cut carbon emissions to net zero earlier, by 2025, warning that the 2050 target amounted to a “death sentence” for the planet.

Four expert leads have been working with advisory and academic panels to make sure the Climate Assembly UK is balanced, accurate and comprehensive and, to engage as many people as possible, documents will be published and presentations by experts and advocates will be live-streamed, organisers said.

One participant, Marc, 46, from Newcastle, said: “I felt like I’d won the lottery when I got the letter. I’d be daft not to do it - it’s amazing to get the chance to have a say and influence what may happen in the future.

“I was in the army for 22 years, so I’ve not got a problem meeting new people and learning new things, I’m really looking forward to it. I hope Britain can take a leading role with making the changes we need to secure our future.”

Andrea Leadsom, business, energy and industrial strategy secretary, welcomed the convening of the Climate Assembly UK.

“Having committed to ending our contribution to climate change entirely by 2050, we will need input from all across the UK, so I look forward to seeing what conclusions the assembly reaches later this year,” she said.

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