There’s nothing democratic about this climate assembly

This is a cynical attempt to lend a democratic gloss to eco-austerity.

Ben Pile


The first two meetings of Climate Assembly UK, dubbed a ‘citizens’ assembly’ on climate change, have taken place in Birmingham over the course of a couple of weekends in January and February.

The climate assembly has brought together 110 randomly selected members of the public to discuss a range of climate issues and policies with a range of experts, including David Attenborough. The task of the assembly, which will meet over two more weekends this spring, is to decide on a set of recommendations for how the government can best meet its pledge to achieve Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The reason for establishing the climate assembly is clear enough. It is an attempt to exorcise the democratic deficit that haunts political environmentalism. And it seeks to do this by involving a tiny, but supposedly representative, sample of citizens in the policymaking process. But can it really achieve its aim, given it excludes approximately 45million other members of the electorate from its decision-making?

In short, no. Watching the proceedings of the first assembly, it became clear very quickly that the process is rigged in favour of the environmentalist agenda. Expert after expert, each echoing the same message, made his or her presentation to the assembly. This was followed by a rapid question-and-answer session in which the assembled were told what’s what by said experts. It didn’t look much like a democratic debate. It looked like instruction.

These shortcomings should not be a surprise, however, given the climate assembly’s origins. Initially advocated by Extinction Rebellion, the climate assembly was eventually set up last year by six House of Commons select committees, in partnership with several third-sector organisations. None of these organisations has a democratic mandate. But they do all have a commitment to promoting the green agenda.

Take, for instance, the participation of Involve, the Sortition Foundation, and mySociety. These three organisations claim to want to encourage democratic engagement, and to reformulate the democratic process. All noble aims. But their role in the climate assembly is less to encourage democratic engagement than to limit and set the parameters of debate. Hence, the climate assembly will not hear from anyone remotely critical of climate science, environmental ideology or emissions-reduction policies.

Dig deeper and you discover that the majority of the assembly’s funding comes from the the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (EFF) (which also funds Involve and mySociety), and the European Climate Foundation (ECF). These are not neutral organisations. Both the EFF and the ECF are explicitly committed to promoting an environmentalist agenda. As the ECF puts it on its website: ‘[We call for] the transformation of our systems and markets and the creation of a Net Zero society.’

The ECF is also the major funding partner of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), which provides communication support for the assembly. Indeed, the ECF is one of the largest funders of climate-change campaigns throughout Europe.

The ECF itself is part-funded by the US-based organisation it best resembles: the ClimateWorks Foundation. According to its website, the ClimateWorks Foundation acts as a ‘strategist to a wide range of foundations, helping them evaluate the global landscape of greenhouse-gas-reductions opportunities, develop philanthropic strategies, and coordinate and evaluate their investments’. Or, in other words, it acts as an environmentalist coordinator, distributing millions upon millions of dollars to numerous climate campaigns, using the funds of a few foundations.

The ECF does something similar in Europe. It distributes funding to myriad campaigning organisations. These organisations, like the ECIU, are intended to appear as autonomous ‘grassroots’ groups. But they all act under the umbrella of the ECF. Such organisations make much of the virtue of ‘transparency’ in public life. But when I approached the ECF for details of which organisations it funds, and who it is funded by, its representative refused to tell me.

Through its various organisational money-go-rounds, the ECF is not so much fostering civil-society participation as it is trying to enforce groupthink. Just look at the climate assembly in action. It is a choreographed exercise, in which the participants are directed towards the ‘correct’ conclusions.

For instance, during one question-and-answer session, Joanna Haigh, a former co-director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, was asked about other countries’ commitments to reducing CO2 emissions – the implication being that if other countries are committed to reducing CO2 emissions, then the UK ought to be, too. Haigh said that other nations were indeed set on reducing CO2 emissions. She even told the assembly that China, one of the world’s largest CO2 emitters, has decided it is not going to build any more coal-fired power stations.

But this is not true. In the period up to 2050, during which the UK has pledged to reduce CO2 emissions to Net Zero, China has committed to increase its use of coal. And not just domestically. It is also financing coal-infrastructure projects across Asia and Africa.

Haigh is not some undergraduate fudging an answer to an exam. She is an ‘expert’. Her role in the climate assembly is to provide the participants with the facts on which they are to base their decisions. But she didn’t provide a fact. She provided a fiction that suited the environmentalist agenda of the climate assembly.

Perhaps Haigh was simply mistaken. Either way, she was not challenged within the climate assembly. And that is the key problem with this setup. It doesn’t allow for the robust, open debate one might expect of the public sphere proper. Instead it elevates its chosen experts to positions of authority – positions, that is, above scrutiny. As a result, mistakes and falsehoods can proliferate unchallenged.

Of course, a few of the 110 assembly members might spot the errors. They might rise to the challenge and take on the experts. But it is far more likely that they will be hectored into submission by the endless ‘expert-led’ repetition of one side of the argument.

If, as seems to be the intention, the government uses the recommendations of the climate assembly to formulate future climate policy, it will not be a victory for democracy. The only true democratic test of the government’s carbon-cutting policies is a free and open debate, in which all views can be heard, not just those of 110 ‘jurors’ and their hand-picked ‘expert’ witnesses.

Ben Pile blogs at Climate Resistance.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


James Charles

16th February 2020 at 10:08 am

“For climate change, there are many scientific organizations that study the climate. These alphabet soup of organizations include NASA, NOAA, JMA, WMO, NSIDC, IPCC, UK Met Office, and others. Click on the names for links to their climate-related sites. There are also climate research organizations associated with universities. These are all legitimate scientific sources.

If you have to dismiss all of these scientific organizations to reach your opinion, then you are by definition denying the science. If you have to believe that all of these organizations, and all of the climate scientists around the world, and all of the hundred thousand published research papers, and physics, are all somehow part of a global, multigenerational conspiracy to defraud the people, then you are, again, a denier by definition. 

So if you deny all the above scientific organizations there are a lot of un-scientific web sites out there that pretend to be science. Many of these are run by lobbyists (e.g.., Climate Depot, run by a libertarian political lobbyist, CFACT), or supported by lobbyists (e.g., JoannaNova, WUWT, both of whom have received funding and otherwise substantial support by lobbying organizations like the Heartland Institute), or are actually paid by lobbyists to write Op-Eds and other blog posts that intentionally misrepresent the science.”

Detlef Pelz

15th February 2020 at 12:40 pm

If one accepts the science then it is incumbent that there be a very large reduction in the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. How best to achieve this while at the same time sustaining industry and commerce? I don’t know, but isn’t nuclear one obvious choice for base-load electricity supply? Especially if the adoption of electric vehicles begins to grow exponentially? Wind and solar are viable adjunct generators of electricity, but for sustained base-load power there isn’t a lot of choice, is there?

Aunty Podes

15th February 2020 at 3:07 am

What an utterly ludicrous and futile set-up!

Where, for pities sake, do we protest against it?

After all – commenting here, to the already convinced “deniers” is, after all, pretty futile. too!

nick hunt

16th February 2020 at 10:56 am

There is no scientific consensus on the causes of climate change, nor on any alleged climate ‘crisis’. Anyone pretending otherwise denies science and reason.The 500 top climate experts who told the UN ‘there is no climate emergency’ also pleaded in their letter to make debate about climate more scientific and less political or dogmatic. But the UN ignored them, and continues to listen to and promote a teenager and her ridiculous scaremongering. The absurdly unnecessary assemblies are doing the same. And they certainly won’t be discussing 50 years or more of media climate scares and predictions of doom, all of which proved 100% false, and drawing the obvious logical conclusions. Now that’s close-minded.

John Doran

12th February 2020 at 5:14 pm

A net zero society is one without industry.

A purely agrarian, farming society without tractors? A figment, an impossibility.

The whole thing is a fraud perpetrated by banksters & multi-billionaires who own & control both our politicians & Mainstream Media.

Probably the best introduction to & expose of the fraud is the great little 121 page handbook for the layman by climatologist Dr. Tim Ball:
Human Caused Global Warming The Biggest Deception In History
Reveals all, names names.

August, 2019, Dr. Tim won full costs in a multi-million dollar lawsuit vs Michael Mann.
Mann produced in 1998 a “hockey stick” graph which wiped out 400 years of history, The Medieval Warm Period, to try & make the present warm period look “unprecedented” & “dangerous”.
The fraud factory UN IPCC were fully complicit in this ridiculous nonsense.

The motives are threefold:
A world totalitarian govt.
A vast depopulation.

The plotters reveal themselves:
Click on Quotes.

Rick O’Shay

12th February 2020 at 3:17 pm

We’re all doomed—doomed I tell you…..

Puddy Cat

12th February 2020 at 10:42 am

There is an abdication of leadership underway. The broad swathe of single issues that politicians feel the need to address is making a nonsense of planning and will eventually make the Civil Service redundant, too many climb downs, too many singular instances. The rot started when Labour MP’s , Mr Corbyn, rose in Parliament to lament the cause of some constituent or other. It was as though we had recreated the medieval court and the PM of the day asked to grant some sort of largess on the spot.

Once this process gained confidence the deal was sealed and the whole spectrum of identitarianism took flight. You can now gain notoriety from being outspoken on any topic and, under certain headings, be believed not because of the facts but through fear, or professed sincerity. The presence of the UN looms large as world government is proposed as the only way of bringing recalcitrant governments to heel. The power of state legislation is fast going the way of local councils, increasingly powerless, a procedure with luminaries, functions and notoriety, useless.

When one thinks of the power of some of these interventionists we are by nature deflected towards Piers Gaveston (no, not an antacid) or Rasputin or any other figure that has the king’s ear. We see our constitutional place eroded by a coterie, manipulative, savvy of method, techniques and data. Government should be austere and beyond the day to day jabbering of modish individuals.

Planning used to be a steadfast reason for preservation, time and place which has now become a wrecking ball of rumour and contrivance. The whole landscape of our lives is being changed not by principal and conservatism but by insinuation, fright and misinformation.

Coram Deo

11th February 2020 at 10:11 pm

I was first or second to leave a comment under one of the videos to ask when the climate realists would be appearing.
Next time I looked comments had disappeared and the democratic message COMMENTS CLOSED had been utilised!

Stew Green

11th February 2020 at 7:01 pm

Re “The science is settled” excuse to exclude skeptic voices
.. You can’t exclude voices and then ask them to PAY in terms of increases taxes, prices and loss of freedoms.
“No taxation without representation” is the principle.

Peoples’ Assemblies is just the latest Alinsky form of *entryism* whereby Wokemob activists leverage power by using their minority to hijack the core of an organisation.

david rawson

11th February 2020 at 4:18 pm

I’ve an idea, very simple that Boris should do …. hold a referendum, a once in a life-time referendum, no ifs, no buts ..

1. Do you want take sensible steps to reduce pollution in all it’s forms ?
2. Do you want to empose draconian austerity on the poorest members of society by 2050 ?

steve moxon

11th February 2020 at 3:05 pm

Climate change ideologues are like feminists and ‘identity politics’ totalitarians generally: they live by truth inversion.
It’s the old adage that lying works if you lie big and lie big all the time, as people are less likely to consider that something could be as preposterous as it would need to be for it to be untrue.
So it is that those who wish to impose what is completely at odds with reality quickly turn their white lies into rabid porkies.

T Zazoo

12th February 2020 at 3:11 am

And the logical outcome to that, if I recall Hitler correctly, was something along the lines of, “if we can keep this up for 100 years no one will be able to imagine any other way”.

steve moxon

12th February 2020 at 7:14 pm

And it’s already been more successful than Hitler, being far more all-encompasing and deep-seated than his political philosophy became. ‘Identity politics’ totalitarianism, notwithstanding being complete nonsense from start to finish, is now the state religion and is in every nook and cranny of every organisation and workplace.

cebajoc cebajoc

11th February 2020 at 1:20 pm

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11th February 2020 at 12:04 pm

>>Perhaps Haigh was simply mistaken.
Charitable of you but unlikely. Had she been, that of course would be very worrying.

>>In other words I doubt there is anyone chosen who doesn’t sing off the same hymn sheet.
No, they’ll probably fix it so there’s tokenistic representation from the antis so as not to make the fraud look too obvious

K Tojo

11th February 2020 at 10:55 am

The opposition to environmental activism is too feeble. The environmental activists are very well organised and their domination of reporting in the MSM is all but total. If only the sceptics were equally well organised and determined we might have something resembling a serious public debate.

Instead we have a procession of public figures eager to show off their eco-credentials by dispensing patronising advice to the common herd on the sacrifices “all of us” must make in order to save the planet. Eco-activists tell governments “Jump!’ and governments (cowed by vulgar Marxism’s moral bullying) just say “How high?”

Many scientists are skeptical and indeed highly critical of climate change activism and the supposed malignant effects of CO2. Why don’t they demand a fair hearing on the broadcast media? Where is the organised protest movement challenging eco-fanaticism? People do not really understand the full consequences of what Extinction Rebellion are demanding of the developed world.

Eco-activists command a tremendously influential PR machine worldwide. Skeptics sniping from the sidelines will never be more that a mild irritant to them.

Jerry Owen

11th February 2020 at 12:12 pm

Ultimately and ironically ‘ climate change ‘ will prove them wrong. But it’ll be too late by then

Brandy Cluster

11th February 2020 at 9:58 pm

It isn’t in any way different to the hegemonic Catholic Church and the plight of Copernicus in the 16th century when he sent shock-waves through the institution and had to be punished for his trouble. Consider the climate change evangelicals today like that hegemonic Church and the occasional skeptic as Copernicus. They were all so completely wrong but the weight of opinion, rather than the quality, destroyed Copernicus.

I don’t like the word ‘skeptic’ so much because it reminds me of the tropes of christian ‘belief’ (again, very similar to Climate Catastropharians). In reality it’s the PEOPLE who are the acolytes of eco-evangelism whom the people so comprehensively mistrust that they are not willing to listen. That’s my particular brand of ‘skepticism’, since I remain agnostic about CC itself.

David Morris

12th February 2020 at 8:01 pm

Copernicus was never ‘punished.’ His work on heliocentrism was published only shortly before his death and caused little controversy at the time, and the initial criticism from religious figures came mainly from Protestants rather than Catholics.
You’re probably thinking of Galileo. And it has to be said that while no one could condone the way the Church finally treated Galileo, he was in some ways his own worst enemy. His support for Copernicus amounted to a quasi-religious obsession that went far beyond what could be scientifically justified by the evidence available at the time. In fact geocentrism wasn’t strictly disproved until the early 19th century, when the astronomer and mathematician Frederick Bessel observed the stellar parallax of 61 Cygni.

T Zazoo

12th February 2020 at 3:18 am

Some if it might not necessarily be a bad thing. If we can shift away from fossil fuels towards more renewable energy that’s probably a good idea, for the cleaner air alone. That and if we could finally pull the rug from under the oil lobby and make Saudi Arabia about as interesting to the world as the Central African Republic then that wouldn’t be a bad thing. We just don’t need to dismantle capitalism to do it. In fact transformation is what capitalism is good at.

jan mozelewski

11th February 2020 at 10:37 am

I have heard the phrase ‘The science is settled’ given as a catch-all reason for excluding so-called climate change ‘deniers’ (the very pseudo-religious vibe of that term should give one pause) from the , um, ‘debate’.
I can’t for the life of me understand how any proper scientist can come out with such an unscientific statement. It undermines science itself. It’s like someone 50 years ago saying The Periodic Table is settled…when in fact it was not.
There were those who wanted the science to be ‘settled’ when it was , erroneously, concluded that the Sun revolved around the Earth. And through history scientists and philosophers have been castigated and damned for going against the accepted ‘truth’ of the establishment.
This is yet another example of the establishment persuading the gullible that they are being radical when they are actually being stampeded and corralled.

Rick O’Shay

12th February 2020 at 3:27 pm

So true. The science is NOT “settled”. Human induced global warming is a theory, and yet to be proven. It has more to do with “post hoc ergo propter hoc”, the very basis of superstition. The fact that the industrial revolution predated global warming (which amounts to ONE Celcius degree since that ‘revolution’) and CO2 levels have increased to 0.4% of the atmosphere does not necessarily mean they are the cause. They MAY be, but this is not “settled”.
Methinks this is a religious cult, with all the doomsday predictions of all cults.

Gareth Edward KING

16th February 2020 at 9:42 am

CO2 is very much a trace gas at 0.04%, not 0.4% as you stated. It’s role in ‘global warming’ along with methane and water vapour is very far from ‘settled’. Human beings’ ‘contribution’ to total CO2 emisions stands at 3%, and so what? Which gas enjoys which % composition varies immensely over geological time, but this is basic Science. Ice core drills from ice age peaks (18,000 y. a.) over the Pleistocene (little more than the last 2 million years) put CO2 levels higher than now, but in a pleniglacial period, as you can imagine, there was no ‘global warming’. If the pesky greens were even able to get to grips with this, but no, their propaganda has taken over the Geography syllabus which was a Social Science at my last reckoning.

nick hunt

11th February 2020 at 10:35 am

The assemblies are anti-science, reason and democracy, unless they allow the critical feedback and open debate necessary for any group to evolve or progress in its knowledge. Science itself only progresses because it is based on continual, critical, dissenting opinion, and there is certainly no complete knowledge or expert consensus about a ‘climate crisis’. I strongly doubt the staged assemblies will ever be discussing this fact or the views of the 500 top climate scientists who recently protested to the UN that ‘there is no climate emergency’. But the UN, ruled by fear and political concerns (like the corporate media and so many gullible, virtue-signalling politicians) continues to respect and promote only Greta’s ‘knowledge’. Without allowing real dissent, the assemblies will also be a sick joke.

Phil Ford

11th February 2020 at 9:32 am

It’s a fix, and the fix is in. ‘Net Zero’ is a socialist call to arms – as usual, socialism hides behind a front operation. ‘Climate change’ has been a very opportune vehicle for socialism’s determined drive towards ‘transformation’ and wealth redistribution. ‘People’s Assemblies’ are a farce, just as ‘People’s Courts’ were a farce in the USSR, China, and Cambodia. There is no room for criticism, no space for debate, no possibility at all that dissent from the approved narrative will be tolerated.

Today’s university-educated socialist revolutionaries do not carry rifles; they do not seek to stir their populations into armed rebellion. For 40 years they’ve instead been marching slowly through the institutions (as they were instructed) – Academia, Media, Government – progressively tightening their intolerant, vice-like grip not just on policy, but also on culture and mindshare, gradually excluding, then overtly de-platforming, any who might dare to take issue with their agenda.

‘Net Zero’ could be their revolutionary moment. What might never be achieved at the barrel of a gun, could just be possible by now subverting the levers of power they now control. Hiding behind virtue, as usual, socialism (even when reeling from historic electoral defeat) seeks to sneak in and steal the advantage. It might succeed, aided in no small measure by a suicidal Tory Administration determined to squander its electoral majority by implementing the very worst climate policy of its defeated opponents. It now seems all but inevitable that the UK is going to be taken down a very self-destructive path towards a socialist dream of ‘Net Zero’.

So what was Brexit for? What now is the point of the historic defeat of Corbyn’s radical socialism? Boris Johnson, who did not hide his ‘Net Zero’ aspirations from the electorate (it was there, plainly, in the 2019 Tory Manifesto), now seems determined to do the bidding of his defeated political opponents with rgards to ‘climate change’. All the major politial parties were signed up to do something like ‘Net Zero’. On that issue, the electorate never had a viable alternative.

Johnson might imagine, in his delusion, he’s riding some virtuous wave; in fact, he’s sowing the seeds of his Administration’s collapse. When ‘Net Zero’ kicks in, when ordinary people realise the staggering implications of this unimaginably retrogressive policy and the real harm it seems poised to cause, to families, jobs and infrastructure, the Tories will lose any lingering public support. Bang goes their majority.

What’s needed is a new political force determined to place resistance to ‘Net Zero’ front and centre. Perhaps that will be the next genuine revolution in British politics.

Jerry Owen

11th February 2020 at 7:47 am

I didn’t even know this had happened. I’d heard that XR had called for these assemblies, but for them to go ahead is astonishing. I do feel that with the Tory party and the clear soon to be failure that is our PM we are doomed to collapse as a society. My advice, is to stock up on tinned food, rice and pasta.
It’s going to get cold soon with the solar minimum kicking in, and with a soon to be shortage of transport ie big lorries (where are the battery operated juggernauts!) to move food around the west, trouble lies ahead. If you doubt me look into the social history of the little ice age. When people are starving they get violent and will do anything for food, the double whammy of course it’s not just food it’s also a lack of heat.
Dire times ahead.

Jerry Owen

11th February 2020 at 7:50 am

How did they pick 110 people and why 110?
As Ben says this is about bypassing democracy just as they tried to do with Brexit, and as the Democrats tried to do by impeaching the POTUS.
We are living in a post democratic era.

Lizzy Wilko

11th February 2020 at 10:28 am

I am furious about this undemocratic and dangerous creation. They claim the 100 were chosen from 30,000 people chosen at ‘random’ using a method called sortition.
In other words I doubt there is anyone chosen who doesn’t sing off the same hymn sheet.
The Climate Change Committee is another joke. John Selwyn Gummer aka Lord Deben has been exposed as receiving £500k from some renewables company.

Dominic Straiton

11th February 2020 at 7:38 am

If the twentieth century has taught us anything its if you put zealous ideologues in charge of anything the bodies start to pile up. Fossil fuels are the only reason there are large populations of humans in the northern hemisphere.

HollyH Johnson

11th February 2020 at 7:32 am

★  I am making $98/hour telecommuting. I never imagined that it was honest to goodness yet my closest companion is acquiring $20 thousand a month by working on the web, that was truly shocking for me, she prescribed me to attempt it. simply give it a shot on the accompanying site.. go to home media tech tab for more detail reinforce your heart…… Read more

Aunty Podes

15th February 2020 at 3:09 am

GET RID of this off topic SLAG!

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