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Using deliberative policy design methods to support better climate policymaking

By Simon Rayner, Analyst – Buildings

The CCC recently collaborated with Lancaster University on a deliberative policy design process, focused on policies for decarbonising owner-occupied homes. We convened a citizens’ panel on home energy decarbonisation – bringing together homeowners to explore policies for dealing with the challenge of retrofitting homes with efficiency measures and low-carbon heating. This work informs the CCC’s advice to Government, alongside our rigorous independent analysis, extensive stakeholder discussions and review of existing evidence.

What does a deliberative process involve?

Deliberative processes are a means of exploring and designing policies in collaboration with members of the public who would be impacted by them if implemented. They bring together a representative group of people who might be affected by new policy, provide them with evidence and information, allow them to debate the issues involved, and enable them to develop proposals and recommendations. This generally involves three main steps:

  • Learning: where participants develop their understanding of the issues, consider evidence and hear from experts.
  • Deliberation: structured discussion – typically guided by trained facilitators – between participants and with experts, to consolidate knowledge, develop views and generate ideas.
  • Conclusions: generating findings and recommendations, which may be through consensus building, voting, or a combination of both.

Deliberative methods require a group of participants who are representative of the people who would be impacted by the policy, rather than just those who already have an interest in the policy area. This is usually achieved through random sampling, with stratification to ensure that differing characteristics of  the population are adequately represented. Participants are often compensated for their time, to reduce barriers to participation.

The deliberative process involves structured meetings and workshops, enabling participants to learn about the policy problem and develop their own solutions. The process needs to be well planned – incorporating inputs from relevant experts and guided by trained facilitators.

Why use deliberative methods to develop climate policies?

Tackling climate change requires changes that may directly affect how people live their lives – potentially changing how they travel, how they heat their homes, and what they consume. These policies will be most successful if they are well designed and widely accepted. One way to increase the chances of success is for people who will be affected by policies to have a say in designing them.

This isn’t easy to achieve: most people lack the time and expertise to respond to policy consultations. But without this input, public views on policies can be difficult to gauge, and policy choices tend to be heavily influenced by particular groups and interests. Without adequate public engagement, policies are made without the valuable input of the diverse range of people who will be affected by them, and people may feel policies are implemented without considering their views. Deliberative methods offer a means of addressing these problems.

Deliberative methods offer a number of advantages which can help to deliver better policymaking, across a range of climate policy challenges:

  • Ensuring that groups who will be affected by policies are represented and are able to influence decision-making.
  • Increasing trust in the policy process (if the policy preferences obtained by the process are implemented).
  • Enabling public support for policies to be tested, and allowing concerns to be identified and addressed.
  • Giving policymakers confidence to act, by demonstrating public appetite for policy proposals.
  • Offering a setting for diffusing conflict and resolving opposing arguments, and for developing policy in novel and unfamiliar areas.
  • Providing time and space for considering interactions between a range of policies across linked policy areas.

In our 2022 Progress Report, the CCC recommended that the Government embeds deliberative methods into its process of developing policies for delivering Net Zero. Organising and running deliberative processes requires resources and expertise. But the appropriate use of deliberative processes can help in delivering better solutions to difficult policy problems, and avoiding policy failure.

For the CCC itself, deliberative methods can provide new insights for our advice to government. We have no direct control of policy, but we make regular policy recommendations. Deliberative methods offer the potential to broaden the evidence for our advice.

The citizens’ panel on home energy decarbonisation

The citizens’ panel on home energy decarbonisation allowed CCC analysts to experience a deliberative process in practice. It allowed us to explore the use of deliberative methods in developing policy as well as to obtain views on addressing a particular policy problem.

The citizens’ panel involved the participants attending seven meetings, totalling nearly 25 hours, over the course of six weeks. The participants learned about options for decarbonising home energy use and developed a package of policy measures for delivering change. The process generated valuable evidence of the types of policies which homeowners wish to see in order to decarbonise their homes.

We were able to see the value of deliberative processes – offering clarity on the public’s policy preferences and providing a strong mandate for action.

The process showed that:

  • People accepted the need to make changes to their homes, and were willing to act.
  • People wanted the Government to set out clear, long-term policy programmes for delivering the changes required to their homes.
  • People wanted clear, reliable and detailed information on the changes which will be needed to their homes.
  • People supported a range of solutions to help decarbonise their homes. These include the need for:
    • Long-term strategy, providing clarity to homeowners and including regulations to compel action.
    • Government action to increase public awareness and provide trusted energy advice.
    • Enhancements to Energy Performance Certificates to provide records of the retrofit work required and completed in every home.
    • Incentives for homeowners to improve their homes such as stamp duty reductions, tax discounts, and property-linked loans, alongside grants to support those least able to pay.
    • Policies to ensure a supply of reliable, well-trained installers, and services help people find trusted contractors.

We would like to thank Becky Willis and Jacob Ainscough of Lancaster University for inviting the CCC to collaborate in this work. We’d also like to thank all the participants in the Citizens’ Panel for their involvement, enthusiasm and valuable insights on such an important policy area. We’d also like to thank Shared Future, for facilitating, and the commentators and advisory group for their time and inputs.

Further information: As part of the collaboration with the CCC, Lancaster University have produced two reports. The first examines the role of deliberative methods in climate policy development. The second details the process and outcome of the citizens’ panel on home energy decarbonisation. Both are available on the CCC website. The collaboration with Lancaster University is part of the university’s Climate Citizens project. More information is available at https://climatecitizens.org.uk/.