50 days ahead of the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Gordon SNP MP Richard Thomson met local resident Hamish Stewart as he visited the House of Commons last week to discuss what it was like to take part in the first ever UK-wide climate assembly and to share their key recommendations with MPs.
Parliament invited assembly members to Westminster to mark the first anniversary of their landmark report ‘The Path to Net Zero’ after the original launch plans were disrupted by the pandemic last year. Hamish and his fellow Climate Assembly UK members told MPs that they support climate action but that they want climate policies to be fair and backed by better public engagement, choice and clear government leadership.
Hamish Stewart, 49, a software developer said:
“I felt really pleased to be asked to take part in the assembly and be able to offer a unique perspective from Aberdeenshire - the centre of the UK’s oil and gas industry where I started my career. The whole exercise has been extremely worthwhile and I hope the assembly’s findings around fairness will ensure local economies like ours can transition to get ready for the clean energy jobs of the future. It’s brilliant that MP’s like mine have not only read our report but feel the same optimism and can do attitude about the net zero challenge.”
Local MP Richard Thomson said:
“Hamish and his fellow Climate Assembly UK members have shown how it’s possible to find consensus on the how best to tackle climate change and the importance of having honest, straightforward discussions concerning the issues at stake. In doing so, the Assembly has set a fine example for the world leaders who will gather at November’s COP 26 summit in Glasgow.
“I’m delighted that the Scottish Government are leading the way with efforts to tackle climate change and also ensure a just transition to a net zero economy by investing in the technologies of the future. The £500million transition funding announced last month by the First Minister for the North-east to secure low carbon jobs in our area is essential as we look to move towards a just transition, and increasing the number of people working in the renewables sector.
“I congratulate Hamish and thank him for the energy, time and dedication he put into taking part in the assembly.”
Sir David Attenborough, People's Advocate for COP26 said in a personal message to Climate Assembly members this week:
"The world's scientists have been very clear on what's at stake for mankind if we don't act on climate change. Our political leaders now need to lead and give people confidence that all the changes needed to deliver net zero are desirable and possible for all of us. Parliament's Climate Assembly has done a truly remarkable job of highlighting the high levels of public support for climate action up and down this country and given government and MPs an invaluable roadmap of how it can be done. We owe the members of the UK public who took part in it a huge debt of gratitude. Above all, the Assembly has been abundantly clear that greater public participation and fairness is needed at the heart of all climate action and this is therefore a message I hope this government has heard loud and clear and certainly one I plan to share with all world leaders at COP26 in Glasgow.”
In 2020, for the first time in its history, the UK Parliament decided to put the question of how we reach our national climate targets to the people in a UK-wide climate assembly. They discussed what a net zero transition might mean for how we travel, what we eat, what we buy and where our electricity comes from. Climate Assembly UK brought together 108 members of the public, chosen through a democratic lottery, who mirrored the UK population in where they lived, characteristics like age and gender, and how concerned (or not) they were about climate change. Their recommendations to MPs could have a big impact on the way we all live our lives over the next few decades.
The Assembly’s report was published on 10 September 2020, was forwarded to No10 and welcomed by government ministers. It was also used as evidence by the government’s independent advisors, the Climate Change Committee, for their Sixth Carbon Budget which, in turn, has informed the UK government’s recent pledge to cut national carbon emissions by 78% by 2035.
A new ‘behind the scenes’ documentary The People vs Climate Change is available on BBC iPlayer. It takes a look at some of the human stories behind those who took part in the assembly.