Various non-profit environmental organisations and trade unions have voiced their concerns over the future citizen engagement initiative "KlimaBiergerRot" (citizens' climate council).
The following organisations associated with the implementation of citizen assemblies on climate change recently expressed their opinion on the matter in a press statement: Action Solidarité Tiers Monde (ASTM), CELL - the Centre for Ecological Learning Luxembourg, the LCGB and OGBL trade unions, Rise for Climate (RFC) Luxembourg and Youth for Climate (YFC) Luxembourg.
The aforementioned organisations argued thatm "given its size and wealth", Luxembourg could be "a real frontrunner in the field of climate action and citizen and democratic participation, but we continue to lag behind".
They added that the news of the citizens' climate council, announced by Luxembourg's Prime Minister during his State of the Nation address in October 2021, came as a surprise. "Some of us find hope in it that the climate issue will be tackled head-on by the whole government", read the statement. "However, it also worries us because it does not seem to provide the necessary conditions for deep reflection and determined action to solve the climate crisis".
Consequently, the various organisations expressed their "regret that the method of selection of the citizens' council is completely opaque and that no external committee has been set up to ensure the quality of the process". Regarding the selection process, they "hope[d] that the information provided during registration, particularly in terms of political opinion, will be used wisely". Moreover, the organisations criticised the fact that participants must have an “understanding of French, Luxembourgish and English”, a requirement which they believe "does not [...] allow access to the diverse and multicultural population of Luxembourg".
The organisations added that they would have preferred the scope of action of this citizens' council to go beyond Luxembourg's integrated national energy and climate plan.
They also argued that the "announced mode of operation of the [citizens' council] seems to ensure neither independent information nor decision-making".
The statement continued: "We also regret that no external committee has been set up to ensure the quality of the process, that the [citizens' council] has to carry out its work in a very limited period of less than six months and that the civil society initiatives that have been launched several years ago were not taken into account in the development of the process".
Regarding the latter, the organisations recalled that, for more than two years, CELL and other organisations in the U4CJ coalition (including ASTM, LCGB, OGBL, RFC and YFC) have been working on developing citizen assemblies on climate change "that provide a space for people to reflect on climate action and the democratic conditions needed for a just and effective transition".
CELL has also received funding from Luxembourg's Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development to implement such citizen assemblies. The goal was to establish an assembly at the national level that could "take into account the expectations and needs of the entire population and [...] offer a rooted climate policy that lives up to the cause". According to the statement, this process was "hit head-on" by the citizens' climate council. The organisations also argued that this new initiative from the Ministry of State "appears to be completely isolated, uncoordinated and hasty, which raises real questions about its deep motivation in this pre-election year".
They continued: "The government's lack of transparency and coherence is certainly the major challenge facing civil society, which leads to a sterile race for information and puts us in a situation of perpetual reactivity. For genuine citizen participation processes, it is necessary to take the time, to acquire the means and the own expertise (not only budgets to finance external consultants) and to give citizens real means of action and influence".
Nevertheless, the organisations expressed the hope that the evolution of the citizens' climate council, which is expected to begin its work at the end of this month, proves them wrong: "We hope this [citizens' council] will be more than a cosmetic gimmick. We hope that the dynamic put in place will make it possible to identify the root causes of the many ecological and social ills facing the planet [...]. We hope that the government will be able to assume its responsibilities".