Starting this month, residents of Washington are going to have direct say on climate matters in the state. Eighty members of the public have been selected through a lottery to join the country’s first climate assembly in Washington. The assembly is constituted to develop pollution solutions and deliberate on environmental issues at large.
In a bid to bring the direct voices of the public to the table, the group has randomly selected state residents, representative of every congressional district, to its assembly on climate. The assembly members will be learning about climate change and discussing the issue, then they are required to forward recommendations to the state legislature by March.
“It’s going to hinge on getting people from different ideological perspectives to talk and be informed and come to some consensus,” State Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, told Crosscut.
Although concerns over climate change have been growing worldwide, a recent study shows that Americans are more divided on the subject than they have ever been. Pew Research Center found that 78% of Democrats cite climate change as a top priority, while only 21% of Republicans have the same opinion.
“One fact that has become clear is that the polarized nature of this debate harms us all,” Fey and three other state representatives said in a statement. “This issue cannot be another ‘us versus them’ issue, because it affects us all.”
While the Washington Climate Assembly might be the first in the country, there have been similar assemblies internationally. Last year, U.K. citizens were randomly selected and asked to give their recommendations on how the country could attain net-zero emissions by 2050. After being educated by experts on climate change, citizens managed to reach a consensus, which has since been published in a report.
“The first weekend changed me really. I thought, ‘Oh my God, [climate change] is really going to happen,'” Sue Peachey, one of the 108 people who took part in the U.K. assembly, said in an interview.
The new assembly group aims to have everyone involved collaborate and build relationships with one another to find meaningful solutions to the increasing risks of climate change.
Image via Dave Hoefler