Climate Democracy

This week I returned to my work on climate assemblies. The Spanish climate assembly, which met from November 2021 to May 2022, delivered its recommendations – 172 in total – to the Spanish government in June 2022. These recommendations covered five subject areas: consumption, food and land use, community, health and care, and ecosystems, and each recommendation received about 80% to 100% approval (the assembly adopted many recommendations unanimously). One common thread I noticed when reading through the recommendations was the need for society to incorporate ecological analysis and climate concern into all aspects of public policy. Given the need for such a dramatic paradigm shift, codifying environmental rights and protections at the constitutional level seems an appropriate step toward a politics centered around climate issues. This, therefore, was the subject I chose for a blog post for International IDEA. (Unfortunately, it has not been posted yet.)

In broad strokes, my argument was that, given the results of citizens’ assemblies, there is a clear recognition of the urgent need for significant climate action far beyond the policies currently being pursued by governments, and climate assemblies have provided a mandate for such action. Therefore, the most effective way for countries to incorporate climate assemblies’ recommendations is to enshrine environmental rights and protections in their constitutions. Doing so would place climate issues at the center of policy debates and establish climate action as a core government function, just like national defense or public welfare. Furthermore, countries’ adding environmental provisions to their constitutions would also facilitate greater international cooperation on climate action, making it easier for countries to meet their emission reduction targets by incorporating such concerns into all other policy decisions.

Ultimately, I am not sure if countries are likely to pursue such constitutional reforms – the current Chilean constitutional reform process may indicate a lack of existing political will for these changes – but I believe it is a conversation we need to have regardless.

Outside of the work last week, I also made time for my last weekend trip with my friend Rob from the Canadian Embassy. We traveled to Haarlem, a small city between Den Haag and Amsterdam. In addition to sampling some great beers at a local brewpub (located inside a converted church), we visited the Grote Kerk, constructed in the late 15th century, and saw one of the largest organs in the world, which was built between 1735 and 1738. Haarlem proved a charming spot for one last visit before I depart the Netherlands next weekend!