Conferences, 4Rs 2008

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Citizen participation in decisions about Australia's climate change response
Chris Riedy

Last modified: 2008-08-31


Achieving greenhouse gas emission reductions of the scale required to stabilise the climate system will require radical technological, economic, social and cultural change. In Australia, despite the far-reaching implications of climate change and climate change response, there have been few opportunities for citizens to actively participate in key decisions about how to respond to climate change. Where participation by citizens is invited, it is generally circumscribed; it takes the form of written submissions to inquiries, rather than more active, open forms of public deliberation.

In this paper, I review the recent history of public participation in major decisions about climate change response in Australia. I argue that the introduction of more deliberative forms of public participation can be beneficial as a way of improving the quality of decisions and the sense of public ownership. This second benefit is particularly important for climate change response, as many of the proposed responses have the potential to inflict short-term negative impacts on particular sectors of society.

Despite their benefits, deliberative forms of citizen participation have proven difficult to implement in practice in Australia. They also raise difficult questions about what we should expect from citizens that are asked to participate in these processes. I draw particularly on a case study of the Capital Region Climate Change Forum, a citizens' jury on climate change response held in Canberra in December 2006. I use this case study to identify practical ways to improve citizen participation in future decisions about Australia's climate change response.

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