Citizens Assembly Members Call for Sufficiency and Regulation

New article compares citizen recommendations and EU member states' plans for action

  • News 14.09.2023

EU Citizen Assemblies are recommending far more measures on sufficiency than currently provided for in the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECP). This is the result of an analysis by researchers from the junior research group "EnSu – The Role of Energy Sufficiency in Energy Transition and Society". In a peer-reviewed article, the six authors explore the question of the extent to which sufficiency is taken into account in policy-making in the European context and what ideas citizens have about it. 

Sufficiency: Less resource consumption through social practices and policies

Sufficiency means reducing consumption and production levels in absolute terms through behavioural changes and policy frameworks. Sufficiency as the third strategy of sustainability (besides efficiency and consistency) focuses on people's consumption and behaviour and thus on the way societies live and do business. It is about how people can consume fewer resources by changing their social practices (living, food, travelling, shopping, etc.) and which political framework conditions enable and promote these practices.

Focus on eleven citizens' councils

For their analysis, the researchers analysed the outcome documents of eleven European citizens' councils on climate protection and compared them with the planned measures from the corresponding National Energy and Climate Plans. The members of the councils are recruited from a random sample from the population and are representing it for example in terms of gender, educational attainment, age and place of residence. As a representative mini-public, they discuss issues of climate and energy policy.

Comparison of recommendations for action: Citizen Assemblies meets EU policy

With a share of 39 per cent, their proposals contain significantly more sufficiency measures than the NECPs with a share of eight per cent. For lead author Jonas Lage from the junior research group EnSu and the European University of Flensburg, this is remarkable: "The share of sufficiency measures in the recommendations of the citizen assemblies is three to six times higher in all countries than the share of sufficiency measures in the respective National Energy and Climate Plans. Sufficiency, it seems, is for citizen assemblies an obvious, intuitive or simply unavoidable strategy for combating climate change and preserving a liveable future".

Regulatory sufficiency measures such as banning advertisements for energy-intensive products are particularly common. Approval for sufficiency measures is over 90 per cent within the assemblies, with the highest approval for regulatory measures. 
For Dr. Benjamin Best, Senior Researcher in the Structural Change and Innovation Research Unit at the Wuppertal Institute, author of the article and principal investigator of the EnSu junior research group, this is a decisive finding: "The recommendations of the citizens' councils provide important impulses for climate policy. They show that sufficiency measures are legitimate solutions under sensible participatory conditions."
Carina Zell-Ziegler, researcher at the Öko-Institut, adds: "Against the background of these high approval ratings, it would be desirable for politicians to pay more attention to this. For example, in France the recommendations were taken up and led to a ban on short-haul flights."

Article and junior research group

The article "Citizens call for sufficiency and regulation – A comparison of European Citizen Assemblies and National Energy and Climate Plans" has been published in Energy Research & Social Science under the link below.

The junior research group "EnSu – The Role of Energy Sufficiency in Energy Transition and Society" is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research within the framework of Research for Sustainable Development (FONA) with a total of almost 3.5 million euros. Six young scientists from the Öko-Institut, the Wuppertal Institute and the European University Flensburg (EUF) have set themselves the goal of making societal transformation processes in the context of the energy transition representable for energy system modelling by April 2025.

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