Professor Graham Smith, Professor of Politics and Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster, has been appointed as the founding Chair of the Knowledge Network on Climate Assemblies (KNOCA).

Graham smith speaking at the conference

Climate assemblies are participatory bodies that bring together randomly selected people to learn, deliberate and come to recommendations on aspects of climate policy. Recent high-profile assemblies in France, Scotland and the UK are at the forefront of activity in this area across the world. Funded by the European Climate Foundation, KNOCA aims to bring together academics, policy makers, activists and others to answer the question ‘how can citizens’ assemblies contribute to climate action?’. It will launch formally in June this year. 

Professor Graham Smith has been working on citizens’ assemblies and other forms of participatory and deliberative democracy for over two decades. Alongside his academic work that has been critical to the establishment of democratic innovations as an internationally recognised field of study, he has played a key role in the development of citizens’ assemblies across the world, providing advice to governments and civil society organisations. 

Talking about his appointment, Professor Smith said: “I am delighted that the European Climate Foundation recognised the need for a network in this emerging area of practice. Engagement of everyday people in the climate transition is critical and there is increasing demand from policy makers and activists for evidence of the conditions under which citizens’ assemblies are an effective form of democratic climate action.”

Erica Hope, Director of the European Climate Foundation’s initiative on Climate Planning and Laws, said: “The European Climate Foundation believes that the transition to climate neutrality will only be possible if citizens understand the need for it, the solutions available, and are engaged in shaping how it will happen. We decided to set up KNOCA to gather, structure and spread learning on how deliberative democratic processes like climate assemblies can be used as a tool to help achieve this.”

She added: “When it came to identifying the right person to chair KNOCA, every avenue we explored seemed somehow to bring us to Professor Graham Smith of the University of Westminster, so we are honoured and delighted that he has accepted to play this role.”

Head of the School of Social Sciences at the University of Westminster Professor Dibyesh Anand said: “Professor Smith is not only a great colleague and a world-renowned researcher, he is a rare academic leader who straddles academia-community divides and brings different groups together.” 

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