[LINK] Put the Australian Climate Change Citizens Assembly On-line

Tom Worthington tom.worthington at tomw.net.au
Sat Jul 24 18:27:00 AEST 2010

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, made a speech "Moving forward
together on Climate Change" on Friday:

This proposes a 5% reduction in CO2 emissions, with a CO2 target of 450
ppm, limiting the increase in temprature to 2 degrees, through a cap and
trade scheme. However, one year would first be spend consulting the
community on the proposal through a "Citizens Assembly". In addition $1
billion would be invested over 10 years in connecting the electricity
grid to renewable energy sources and $100m for the Australian Centre for
Renewable Energy (ACRE). There is no proposal for the Australian
Government curb its own increasing use of energy.

About 150 people would be selected for the "Citizens Assembly" from the
census and electoral rolls to spend a year examining what to do about
climate change. It would be easy to see this as a cynical political
trick to put off unpopular decisions until after an election. However,
as the the conference "Democratizing Climate Governance Conference" I
attended last week at the Australian National University in Canberra
detailed, simply stating there is a problem does not necessarily produce
the required action:

This week the Democrats decided they did not have sufficient votes in
the US Senate to introduce a cap-and-trade carbon reduction scheme:

Providing more facts on climate science is unlikely to change the
situation. As well as taking the advice of climate scientists on global
warming, we also need advice from economists, social and political
scientists on how to act on that advice. The Prime Minister's proposal
may be one way to do that.

There are limitations to the prime minister's proposal: The ALP
government has to be re-elected next month for the scheme to be
implemented and it does not have the support of the opposition, nor the
Greens Party (which is likely to hold the balance of power).

There is no provision for such an assembly in the Australian
Constitution. This body will have now formal power, apart from the
limited advisory role provided for in specific legislation introduced to
create it.

The assembly will be limited to considering the government's
market-based approach to carbon emissions, which has already been
rejected by Parliament. The assembly will not be permitted to consider
alternatives, such as a tax on carbon, or energy saving incentives. An
example of such alternatives would be a 5% reduction in emissions
through better use of ICT (including use of the National Broadband
Network), as I teach in Green ICT: <http://www.tomw.net.au/green/>.

There is no mention in the proposal of the use of technology for making
the assembly more efficient, representative or open to the wider
community. It seems likely the assembly will use a similar process to
the cumbersome processes used by the Australian Parliament and used for
the 2020 Summit held by the former Rudd government:

With these the representatives travel to one location (usually Canberra)
for a few days of verbal, face-to-face discussions and then leave again.
Only one person can talk at a time and less than 200 can be accommodated
in one forum. Due to the limited communications only one proposal can be
considered at a time.

One option would be to provide Internet based technology to enhance the
operation of the assembly. There could still be face to face meetings,
but between and during these, online forums could be provided. Many more
citizens could then follow and take part in the discussion online. Many
more proposals could be considered simultaneously. Rather than having
most of the time taken up with set peace speeches, presentations could
be pre-recorded and Podcast.

Some of these techniques were used with the "Public Sphere" Internet
assisted process:

We have learnt a lot about how to run such blended events since I helped
run the first Public Sphere at the Australian National University in
2009: <http://blog.tomw.net.au/2009/05/public-sphere-1-worked.html>.

My colleagues at the ANU Engineering 'Hubs and Spokes' Project have been
working on technology for teaching in a "blended" mode: this combines
podcasts and discussions online, with face to face discussions, which
can also be enhanced by using technology such as "clickers" (wireless
hand held devices to quickly get audience input). This technology could
be applied to a citizens consultation process:

Tom Worthington FACS CP HLM, TomW Communications Pty Ltd. t: 0419496150
PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617, Australia  http://www.tomw.net.au

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