When we don’t know how to resolve a problem, normally we ask someone we trust for advice. Some politicians are doing this: in order to raise their political visibility or not to be accused of “going it alone”, they address voters directly. The most obvious case is that of Putin, who has created a mechanism that will allow him to stay in power for longer. Less clear are the actions of the Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte who in the space of a week, starting from a discussion document, consulted all the social partners (from the private sector to NGOs including representatives of Fridays For Future), leaving most dissatisfied.
The approach of French President Macron was more subtle: engulfed in strong criticism of his political choices (gilets jaunes, local elections, management of COVID-19, etc.) he started by holding a series of public meetings before allowing 150 citizens – chosen at random and representative of French society, and given the name Citizens’ Climate Convention – to express their ideas on what a society that is respectful of the environment in a context of social justice should look like, in particular by setting out a series of measures that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030. After 8 months of work, the Convention presented the government with a report on their conclusions.
We are interested in this approach, not least because for several years researchers have been pointing to it as the way forward. Representative democracy with people chosen by traditional elections is showing many cracks and deficiencies. Wouldn’t it be better to have a group of citizens chosen at random and for limited periods and given the opportunity to take responsibilitiy for governing and decision-making? Experiences in different situations have shown positive results, with people taking responsibility and with broad and enthusiastic participation, and above all with concrete results that won the approval of the whole population.
If we run through the list of recommendations made by the Citizens’ Convention, we find many things that we would like to see put into practice for the sake of human health and the environment. There were 5 topics: Consuming, Producing and working, Mobility, Housing, Food. We will not get into an analysis of every topic or of the 150 suggestions (the final document is more than 400 pages long); so let’s just look at Housing. The third target is: “Combat soil sealing and urban expansion by making life in towns and villages more attractive“. Reading their 13 specific suggestions is like reading the SIP Forum’s draft law.
We reproduce the introduction to this target here, leaving our readers to read the 13 specific proposals and even the whole report if they so choose.
“By soil sealing we mean any action that involves the transformation of open ground (natural spaces, gardens and public parks, farmland, forests …) into building land, infrastructure (roads, building yards, car parks …) or into artificial spaces (sports fields, structured paths and blocks, artificial green spaces).
We therefore wish to:
→ Act for biodiversity, for the protection of periurban forests and local agriculture;
→ Make urban centres more attractive and socially mixed, revitalizing shops and economic activity on the one hand, and bringing nature into towns and cities on the other. This will reduce movements of people and the corresponding consumption of energy.“