31 July 2022
Criteria for assessing citizen participation in the European Green Deal
report project deliverable
It is vital that citizens are included in the ongoing dialogue, but it is also important to identify the different viewpoints on citizen participation and deliberation in environmental policy to gather contrasting, opposing, and complimentary viewpoints.download pdf
Paper published on Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research.
The EGD focuses on ways that we can continue to develop and grow as a continent, while also ensuring that we meet our environmental and climate-related targets over the coming decades. It proposes a strong emphasis on improving the health and well-being of citizens and future generations through appropriate climate action. However, these goals cannot be met without citizens, businesses, and society as a whole doing their part to develop, implement, fulfil the objectives, and societal support for these goals. Therefore, it is important to ensure that public participation and deliberation are factored into environmental policy and action, with the EGD itself explicitly stating the importance of this.
- It is vital that citizens are included in the ongoing dialogue, but it is also important to identify the different viewpoints on citizen participation and deliberation in environmental policy to gather contrasting, opposing, and complimentary viewpoints. The main objective of this task is to focus on how the eight different approaches analysed view, and value, citizen participation and deliberation. The EGD aims to bring about environmental change, but it is unclear how it values or incorporates citizen deliberation and participation within this.
This report will provide a systematic review of some of the most prevalent positions on why, and how, citizen participation and deliberation should be valued. To realise the ambitions of the EGD, it is important to consider the diversity of values and viewpoints of citizens, and how the eight approaches value (or disvalue) participation and deliberation. Overall, this deliverable contains five sections, with 16 criteria for meaningful citizen participation and deliberation, which should function as boundary conditions for citizen involvement in the EGD.
Summary of criteria for effective and meaningful citizen participation
- Be Aware of Power Imbalances
- Policymakers should not lose sight of examining who benefits most from the policy, give attention to current and historical power asymmetries, and empower the disempowered.
- Legislators and policymakers need to consider inequalities (such as racialised group, gender, and class) in the design of the legal framework and deliberative and participative tools.
- Civil society in the Global North must reflect on its relationship with civil society in the Global South and build movements based on solidarity.
- Alternative spaces that address power imbalances should be created to foster more equal participation from structurally excluded groups.
- Promoting and Ensuring Inclusiveness
- While policymakers often need to find a compromise about what citizens deem acceptable, sometimes they need to make difficult decisions to achieve environmental objectives.
- Citizens should not be left out because they are unable to reason and debate as strongly as others. Group deliberation should not be the only form of participation.
- While being pragmatic about participation and deliberation on environmental policy is often effective, it is fundamental that the values of citizens are not lost along the way.
- The participation of local and indigenous groups - in particular women - within the scientific community should be promoted (their participation is often hindered by structural barriers).
- Work with and Protect Nature
- We should not view ourselves as the only thing of moral considerability. The needs of other species and the environment should be recognised within environmental policy.
- Non-human organisms, species, and the environment cannot voice their concerns politically, so human citizens need to represent them within a policy that impacts them.
- Collaborating with Bottom-up Activism and Cultivating Environmental Citizenship
- Policymakers should incorporate the views of environmentalists in environmental policy. Bottom-up climate activism initiatives should contribute to political dialogue.
- Institutions like the United Nations and the European Union should consult with grassroots groups and promote their full participation in decisions that affect their environment.
- Decision-makers need to create the conditions to foster environmental citizenship and to improve the environmental awareness of citizens.
- Transitioning the Economic Model to a Green Economy
- Transitions are not only driven by politics and the market. Civic and cultural mobilization should become the main advancing agents of change. Societal groups could create new institutional forms, or new lay-expert modes of, engagement to build new design ecologies.
- The role of the individual citizen needs to be extended beyond that of a consumer of the environment, and they need to be involved in active participation based on collective action.
- A conceptualisation of well-being that moves away from the current economic focus on growth and instead centres care for people and the planet should be promoted.
These 16 criteria are further developed in Section 4 of this report. They provide a steppingstone for the REAL_DEAL project to further extrapolate and refine recommendations through the course of the project, while also developing practical steps for how they can be implemented. This report provides high-level criteria for, and acts as a first step towards, meaningful citizen participation and deliberation in the EGD.