Citizens’ Jury has offered deliberated views on climate actions for climate policy decision-makers. Implemented by researchers from the University of Turku, the Citizens’ Jury compiled a statement, which was delivered to the Finnish Ministry of the Environment and the government-appointed Climate Policy Roundtable, the purpose of which is to create a common understanding of how Finland can make a just transition to a carbon neutral society by 2035.
In recent years, many European countries have organised deliberative mini-publics on climate policy, allowing lay citizens to produce solutions for the decision-makers on reducing climate emissions. Some of the most well-known examples include the Climate Assembly UK and the Citizens Convention for Climate in France. The Citizens’ Jury organised in April was the first nation-wide deliberative mini-public on climate issues in Finland, and it was participated by 33 randomly selected citizens.
– Democratic deliberation is important especially in making climate policies since many climate actions affect people’s everyday lives. It is important to provide citizens with an opportunity to learn more about policies, deliberate, and influence decision-making, says Professor of Political Science Maija Setälä from the University of Turku.
– When assessing climate actions, citizens can recognise their impact on different segments of the society and create proposals for solutions that they find acceptable. The work of the Jury included plenty of advance preparation, but on the other hand, the statement is versatile and carefully deliberated, says Senior Specialist Heta-Elena Heiskanen from the Ministry of the Environment.
Opportunity to influence motivates
The interviewed members of the Jury decided to participate in the Citizens’ Jury because they saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to influence decision-making and bring out their own perspectives.
– Climate issues are important but also complex. I wanted to bring forth the perspectives of people who may lack opportunities to participate in public discussion or cannot afford to change their everyday lives, says Marja Tiitto, a member of the Citizens’ Jury from Taipalsaari.
– I decided to participate because the decisions should also allow people like us who are living in rural areas to have equal opportunities to live and participate in everyday activities, says Joni Haapasaari from Ivalo.
The recruitment of participants began with a survey mailed to a random sample of 8,000 adults residing in Finland. Altogether 174 people volunteered to participate in the Jury. Researchers chose the Jury members among the volunteers using random sampling and quotas for different demographic groups.
– Our aim was to form a jury of around 40–50 participants which would represent the Finnish society as well as possible based on the criteria we agreed on in advance: age, gender, area of residence, and education, says Setälä.
Of those selected to the Jury, 37 confirmed their participation and 33 people took part in the Jury’s work.
– I read about the Jury for the first time in a tabloid. At the time, I had my doubts about who would be invited to join it. However, it was a pleasant surprise when I received the survey, explains member of the Jury Haapasaari.
Reaching a mutual understanding through deliberation
The objective of the three-day work of the Jury was to evaluate the fairness and impact of the measures that have been considered to be included in the new Medium-Term Climate Change Policy Plan. Finland is currently updating its Climate Change Policy Plan to correspond to its goal to become carbon neutral by 2035. The discussions were based on a list of 14 potential consumer-related measures compiled the Ministry of the Environment in relation to traffic, food, and housing.
The Jury’s work included expert hearings, joint discussions, and deliberation in small groups.
The Jury followed the principles of deliberative democracy, which aim to enhance mutual understanding by encouraging citizens to justify their views and be open to contrasting views.
– A lot of emphasis was put on discussions; small group discussions in particular allowed us to form a joint opinion of the whole group. The discussions also helped us see people’s different perspectives, explains Tiitto.
By discussing the issue, the members of the Jury had an opportunity to deliberate their own views and compare them to the information given by the experts and the perspectives of the other members.
– At times, it was a little difficult to understand the opinions of others. However, the discussions were amicable, and when you heard how well others reasoned their views, you were able to take them seriously, says Haapasaari.
Outcome is a joint opinion of the Jury
The outcome of the Jury was a four-page statement compiled by the Jury itself, which was voted on at the end of the Jury’s work. Thirty members of the Jury voted for the approval of the statement while two cast a blank vote and one was absent from the vote. Two dissenting opinions were left in the statement.
In addition to comments on the 14 proposed measures, the statement also includes general observations of the Jury on consumer-related climate actions and their fairness. The Jury considered it important that the measures included in the new Climate Policy Plan take into consideration the economic impact of the actions on individuals and different socio-economic segments, as well as regional equality. The Jury hopes that it is possible to live and take part in everyday activities everywhere in Finland also in future.
In the general observations, the Jury also highlighted the allocation of tax revenues in public administration and municipalities to climate-friendly traffic, housing, and food, as well as the importance of steering by information so that all citizens will have adequate knowledge of the impacts of climate actions and e.g. different types of allowances and deductions.
During the deliberations, the Jury members also came up with proposals for new climate measures and supplementing the existing ones, such as extending the car scrapping bonus to purchases of used electric cars and ecological tax credit for domestic help which would be earmarked for energy efficiency renovations.
Including citizens in decision-making
The statement of the Jury was forwarded to the Ministry of the Environment as well as the Climate Policy Roundtable which discussed it in May. The processing of the results will continue in a working group preparing the plan consisting of government officials from several ministries. The statement of the Jury will also be documented as a part of the Medium-Term Climate Change Policy Plan. The draft plan will be completed during summer and it will be reported to the government in autumn 2021.
The members of the Jury hope that their work would make a genuine impact on decision-making.
– I’m hoping that the decision-makers would read the statement carefully and consider the concerns Finnish people have, Haapasaari says.
Both the researcher and the interviewed members of the Jury believe that citizens’ juries can be beneficial for decision-making also in future. Having the opportunity to discuss topical themes in decision-making brings citizens closer to the decision-making and allows their voices to be heard.
– Based on this experience, I believe that citizens’ juries and other forms of deliberative democracy can be helpful in climate policy decision-making also in future. Citizens’ juries could go into more detail in discussing the issues and also develop new solutions for climate actions, says professor Setälä.
– I hope that these types of discussions offer decision-makers new perspectives on what the citizens find reasonable and fair. I recommend participation in Citizens’ Juries for everyone: they offer you an opportunity to influence and learn about new perspectives. Discussion is always beneficial, Tiitto concludes.
The jury was commissioned by the Climate Policy Roundtable together with the Ministry of the Environment, and it was implemented by the research group of the PALO (Participation in Long-Term Decision-Making) project from the University of Turku. The final report on the Citizens’ Jury written by the researchers will be published in late June 2021. Read more about the Citizens’ Jury on its website.
> The statement of the Citizens’ Jury (in Finnish)
Professor Maija Setälä, University of Turku, tel. +358 29 450 2737, firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior Specialist Heta-Elena Heiskanen, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 295 250 380, email@example.com
interview proposals for the participants of the Citizens’ Jury: Coordinator Mari Taskinen, University of Turku, tel. +358 40 702 0718, firstname.lastname@example.org