After declaring a climate emergency, Newham Council established a citizens' assembly to address how to collaboratively reach the goal of carbon neutrality. The response informed the council's Climate Emergency Action Plan.
Problems and Purpose
The purpose of the Newham Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change was to develop recommendations in response to the question: “How can the council and residents work together to reach the aspiration of being carbon zero by 2050 at the latest?”
The recommendations from the Citizens’ Assembly will feed into and shape the Climate Emergency Action Plan.
Background History and Context
Newham declared a climate emergency on 17th April 2019 and introduced a raft of environmental measures to tackle global warming, poor air quality, and waste. The council intends to work across the borough and across council services as well as reaching out to residents, community groups, the Mayor of London, and other stakeholders to address these issues. They backed a motion calling on the Mayor to make the London Borough of Newham carbon zero by 2050.
Newham Council have begun to put together a Climate Emergency Action Plan, and have sought the public's input into the development of this plan through a public engagement programme called “Newham Climate Now!”. The Citizens’ Assembly is one element of this process.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The assembly was funded by the London Borough of Newham Council.
MutualGain was appointed by Newham to design the assembly, invite a pool of experts to present, recruit and lead the facilitation team for the assembly, and manage the overall project. MutualGain is an independent public participation organisation. The organisation aims “to promote greater participation and active citizenship within democracy and increase social capital, for the mutual benefit of all.”
The Sortition Foundation was responsible for recruiting a representative group of people living in the Borough of Newham to take part in the assembly. It is a not-for- profit company that promotes the use of randomly selected groups of people in decision-making.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Around 8,000 randomly selected homes in Newham were sent an invitation letter by the Sortition Foundation. Random stratified sampling was used to select 43 participants for the assembly who were representative of the diversity of Newham’s population. 38 participants attended at the start, with 36 participating throughout the whole process.  Assembly members were given a £250 gesture of goodwill to thank them for the commitment and time they offered.
Methods and Tools Used
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
A Stakeholder Oversight Group was established for the assembly, comprised of people representing a cross section of local interests. It includes voluntary sector representatives, faith representatives, active interest groups related to climate change and measures taken to mitigate climate change, and one local academic expert on the issue.
The Stakeholder Oversight’s Group role is to see:
- that the assembly design and delivery is fair
- that the final recommendations of the assembly can be trusted as being the result of an impartial and balanced process.
- It provides feedback on key aspects of the assembly’s design, including:
- the question on which assembly members are asked to give their views
- who is invited to give evidence and what they are asked to cover
- the written briefings created for assembly members. 
The assembly members came together for four sessions for three evenings and one weekend over January and February 2020. The Stakeholder Oversight Group shaped the central question for the CA, which was as follows: How can the council and residents work together to reach the aspiration of being carbon zero by 2050?
Assembly members listened to evidence from 14 presentations by a variety of local and national experts. The presentations covered the current position on climate change, the aspirational goal within the 2050 time frame, and practical ways in which the question could be addressed locally. Assembly members then discussed what they had heard and together developed conclusions about the next steps to tackle climate change at the local level.
On the final day, assembly members developed recommendations for the Council through discussion and voting. The members developed six themes to frame their recommendations; under each theme they drafted a general message and several specific recommendations. Each recommendation required at least 80% support among the members in the final round of voting to be accepted in the final report.
The sessions were structured as follows:
- Information Session: 30th January 2020
- First Expert Session: 6th February 2020
- Second Expert Session: 13th February 2020-04-19
- Deliberation Weekend: 22-23rd February 2020
The CA formed part of a wider process of public engagement. The recommendations, ideas and statements from wider engagement with Newham on the issue of Climate Change were summarised and incorporated into a speaker slot on the final session.
The wider engagement included:
- Online engagement via the Pol.is online survey platform: The survey ran from 15th January to 6th February 2020 and was publicized via social media, the Newham Mag, and leaflets in local libraries. The purpose was to create recommendations from the local community that could be fed into the assembly and considered alongside other inputs.
- Climate Now Forum: more than 60 residents attended the first ever Newham Climate Now! Open Forum in September 2019. The event focused on how they could help tackle the ongoing climate emergency.
- Youth Climate Assembly: in September 2019, over 100 young people aged from 10 to 25 contributed their views on the climate emergency.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Theme 1: Education, Awareness, and Action
General message: The council, residents, and communities are educated about the climate emergency and are clear about what they all need to do. (91.2%)
- The council should share a briefing pack which outlines the climate emergency and includes actionable advice. (91%)
- The council should hold events to invite ‘heads of’, leaders and key influencers who can pass on the message to more people. (91%)
- The council should make data on emissions available so that residents and the council can monitor progress and hold each other to account. (82%)
- The council should leverage the capabilities of local institutions to educate and raise awareness while collaborating with each other to reach their goals. (94%)
Theme 2: Technology and Energy
General Message: Invest in technologies to create sustainable energy (underpinned by the formula: continuous knowledge + action = wellbeing + more time on the planet). (88.3%)
- Initiate a housing retrofit programme to enable Council residents to receive it (free) and an optional payment plan for home owners at 0% interest, grants or subsidies, to cover insulation, glazing and boilers. (94%)
- Harness and generate renewable power by exploring wind farms, water usage (tidal barrage), and power generation (energy coops).(97%)
- Commence a solar panel scheme to reduce energy costs by making grants available for individuals, subsidies for commercial properties, and mandate it for new builds. (97%)
- Research new and cost effective technologies to draw on best practice from other places e.g. action to increase electric car use. Work with local universities and other boroughs to explore a variety of new actions that could be taken forward. (97%)
Theme 3: Moving Around (transport and travel)
General Message: Switch Newham towards a cleaner, greener, healthier journey. (88.3%)
- Introduce a free park and ride scheme for schools (using electric buses) along with car sharing schemes and walking buses.(91%)
- Introduce free parking across the borough for e-vehicles. (88%)
- Businesses and council to apply for grants to provide e-charging points in accessible areas across the borough. (100%)
- Improve existing cycle lanes and walkways make them safer for use e.g. road surface, lighting and cut back vegetation enabling greater individual and group use. (94%)
Theme 4: Food and Recycling
General Message: Newham will reduce food waste and food miles and aspire to recycle 100%. (85.3%)
- Council should drive the availability of affordable, locally grown food to reduce food miles using only biodegradable wrapping. (85%)
- Council should work in partnership with local shops and supermarkets to reduce food waste, and to implement the distribution of surplus food to those who need it.(97%)
- Council should recycle 100% of domestic and commercial waste no later than 2030 and to stop burning recycled materials, food waste, etc. (97%)
- Recommendation 4 didn’t reach 80% threshold to be accepted
Theme 5: Environment and Outdoor Space
General message: Newham council with residents will transform the environment to produce a greener, more pleasant, healthier place where people will want to live, work and settle. (91.2%)
- Recommendations 1 didn’t reach the 80% threshold to be accepted.
- Recommendations 2 didn’t reach the 80% threshold to be accepted.
- Newham council to prioritise how recycling contributes to the borough’s energy/CO2 production policies and to incentivise (not penalise) resident involvement. (97%)
- Newham council planning decisions all to support biodiversity, cleaner air, ‘greening’ as a central priority. All new buildings to initiate green standards. (94%)
Theme 6: Buildings and Houses
General Message: Take greater leadership and responsibility in how residential homes and businesses become more energy efficient. (94.3%)
- Create a council level finance strategy to meet demands of Newham residents to fund all changes (e.g. introduction of ground source heat pumps, solar panels, boiler replacement, wind turbine investing by 2021. Residents pay back based on savings made (via council tax bill) so repayments linked to property (like student loans). (82%)
- In 2020, create (by sortition method) a residents committee to partner, govern and oversee implementation of recommendations (to minimise corruption, increase efficiency and quality of decisions so they are not rashly made). (91%)
- Introduce policies and planning for deep retrofit of all existing buildings and infrastructure to be completed by 2030 to be carbon neutral e.g. roofing spaces – introduce more greenery and solar panels and rainwater collection. (97%)
- Overhaul council’s policy to maximise use of abandoned buildings and brownfield sites for residential housing and community use e.g. Old East Ham Fire Station, Old East Ham Police Station, East Ham Job Centre and 700 homes demolished in Beckton/ Canning Town which are still empty after 7 years. (91%) 
Analysis and Lessons Learned
An independent academic from Queens University, Department of Political Studies, Ontario, Canada has overseen the process, and will produce an independent evaluation of the assembly and its design.
 Newham London News. (2019, April 17). Newham declares climate emergency. https://www.newham.gov.uk/Pages/News/Newham-declares-climate-emergency.aspx
 Newham London. FAQ. https://www.newham.gov.uk/Documents/Environment%20and%20planning/NewhamClimateNowFAQs.pdf [BROKEN LINK]
 Newham Citizens' Assembly on Climate Change Final Report, Newham City Council, Mutual Gain, [Available at: https://www.newham.gov.uk/downloads/file/1885/newham-citizens-assembly-on-climate-change-final-report-2020]