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Climate Change Citizens’ Assembly Process: Observers’ Interim Report

Jul 19, 2021

Scrutiny review finds ‘no undue Government influence’ on Climate Change Citizens’ Assembly 

Following its observation of meetings held by the Climate Change Citizens’ Assembly, as well as its Expert Advisory Panel, the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure (EHI) Scrutiny Panel has found that the process was conducted with an appropriate degree of independence and with no undue influence from Government. 

The adoption of the second amendment to the Carbon Neutral Strategy, in February 2020, tasked the EHI Panel to observe the Citizens’ Assembly meetings, including the selection and reporting process, and report back its observations and findings to the States Assembly. The Panel’s main objective was to ascertain whether the process was conducted independently, and without undue influence from Government. Having now observed the entire Citizens’ Assembly process, the EHI Panel reports a total of 29 findings and 8 recommendations.

The EHI Panel found that the Expert Advisory Panel comprised an adequate and well-balanced selection of members that demonstrated combined local and international knowledge. Furthermore, the Chair of the Expert Advisory Panel independently led the meetings of the Expert Advisory Panel and the members demonstrated free autonomy and communicated their concerns easily and openly during the meetings. 

In relation to the selection process undertaken to form the Citizens’ Assembly, the Panel found that although the sortition process aimed to closely match participants’ concern levels for climate change with that of Jersey’s population, slight skewing from the set target resulted in slightly more weight being afforded to the upper concern level for climate change and slightly less to the lower end of the concern spectrum. Therefore, it is difficult for the Panel to ascertain whether a balance of views was accurately represented in the final constitution of the Citizens’ Assembly. However, the EHI Panel is satisfied that the selection process did achieve a randomly selected group of individuals, broadly representative of Jersey Society. 

The EHI Panel is further satisfied that the reporting process of the Citizens’ Assembly was fair, transparent and independent of undue influence from the Expert Advisory Group, the Chair–Convenor and the Government of Jersey.

The Panel has recommended to the Government of Jersey that an evaluation of the Citizens’ Assembly process, reflecting on any successes and failures, should be undertaken and the findings published before the end of 2021. It is the EHI Panel’s intention to follow up with a final report, in early 2022, scrutinising both the Government’s response to the Citizens’ Assembly’s recommendations (as recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly in its report), as well as the Government’s evaluation of the Citizens’ Assembly process. 

Connétable Mike Jackson, Chair of the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Panel, commented: 

“It was evident throughout our observation of the process, that the Citizens’ Assembly was conducted with a great deal of autonomy and transparency. However, this was a new process for Jersey and it will be important for Government to learn from the experience, evaluating both the costs and benefits it has brought. The Panel eagerly awaits the Government of Jersey’s response to the Citizens’ Assembly recommendations, as well as the findings of their evaluation process.” 

Scrutiny Press Release.

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