Twenty-six residents – chosen as a representative sample of the population – took part in the process, during which they heard evidence from a range of experts on issues including the climate itself, food, farming and waste.
Presenting a motion at County Hall, Lancaster East county councillor Lizzi Collinge said that the random selection of the participants ensured that it was not just “the usual suspects” with long-held concerns about climate change – herself included – who had been involved.
She proposed that the county authority back the 65 proposals drawn up by Lancaster city residents and implement them right across Lancashire, where it had the powers to do so.
The most popular suggestions were to commit to educating young people about climate change; for councils to frame all of their work around the issue; work to reduce waste from households and businesses; commit to procuring food from sustainable sources; and launch a “positive” campaign to encourage – rather than shock – residents into changing their habits.
County Hall’s cabinet member for the environment, Michael Green, welcomed the work of the jury – but said that it would not be possible to commit to all of its recommendations just three weeks after they were made.
He instead proposed a pledge to investigate how the authority could “best respond” to the proposals.
“Many of them have substantial implications for budgets and the deployment of resources.
“For instance, one of the recommendations is for at least one teacher in every school in Lancashire to be accredited to teach climate change. This will obviously require consideration before it can be committed to, since it touches on the training and recruitment of…possibly thousands of teachers,” Cllr Green said.
The amendment was accepted by Cllr Collinge and the seconder of the motion, Lancaster South East county councillor – and Lancaster City Council leader Erica Lewis – who admitted that the people’s jury report was “challenging” for politicians who had to operate within set budgets.
“It’s clear that we do understand the importance of engaging our residents in dealing with big issues, but we also need to meet the fiscal rules of our councils,” she said.
“If you listen to the stories of [those] who participated, they weren’t all people who started the process saying that the climate emergency is the burning issue of our time. Lots of them weren’t sure… but they have been on a journey.
“I think it’s really important we consider very seriously and do whatever we can, wherever we can to deliver [the recommendations] for the people of the district who worked so hard to bring them together for us.”
Cllr Collinge added: “These are ambitious recommendations, but they need to be – our world is going to be changed in ways we can’t even imagine by climate change.
“As we have seen during the pandemic , radical change can happen if the will is there. I hope [we have] the will…to move forward with the same sense of urgency in tackling climate change and the ecological emergency as we have done with the pandemic – because it is on the same level of magnitude in its threat to humanity.”
Other recommendations from the report include making it easier for people not to use cars, the promotion of locally-produced food and the inclusion of either a ground or air source heat pump and/or solar panels on all new housing.
In a preamble to the report, the jury states: “We recognise that many difficult decisions lie ahead, but that we must act immediately and not allow a quest for perfection to get in the way of making progress. We need to take action today, not in 30 years time.
“Our city and county councils must accept that progressive change to fight the climate change emergency will have financial implications. Not being able to fund the recommendations we have listed here is no reason for inaction as money won’t matter in a world that won’t exist as we know it.”
HOW THE PEOPLE’S JURY WORKED
Four thousand random households were invited to apply to take part – from which 26 were chosen to reflect the diversity of the local population, in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, disability, geography, attitude to climate change. They were also selected from a range of locations based on measures of deprivation.
The sessions provided an opportunity for people to work in small groups to think through what climate change means to the Lancaster district and what steps are being taken to address the problem.
Throughout the process, the wider group was joined by a series of experts to talk about the science of climate change and other related topics. A question and answer session then followed before the jury talked about what they had heard.
The process culminated with the jury members formulating their recommendations.
To ensure that the programme was not biased, an oversight panel was established to attend the meetings, comprising representatives of Lancaster University, University of Cumbria, Lancaster City Council, Lancashire County Council, Stagecoach, Bay Health and Care Partners, EDF, Lancaster District Community and Voluntary Solutions, National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales, parish and town councils, Extinction Rebellion and Lancaster Youth for Environment.