kettering convention centre 09As always in the UK, thoughts are rarely far from what the weather is doing. Here in Kettering it is slightly grey, cloudy day. However, some longer term thinking about the weather soon to happen as 100 Kettering citizens are starting to converge on the local Conference Centre. They will be here today to learn more about what scientists, economists and politicians understand about what will happen our climate and, as a result, to our way of life. They will then discuss with their fellow citizens what they understand this to mean for them.  Finally, and most importantly, they will vote on what action they think should be taken in response.

This cross-section of the population in Kettering is not discussing these issues in splendid isolation. Groups of citizens have been brought together in 38 countries around the world, given the same information representing the sum of what we know about climate change at the moment, and asked to vote on the same questions. The groups in Australia and Japan have almost finished and the results of their votes will be up online soon. The groups in China and Cameroon are deep in the middle of their conversations, and those who will gather in Canada, the USA and Chile are not yet even awake.

Together these 4,400 citizens represent an exciting and unique democratic experiment.

Long before the flawed Kyoto Agreement the governments of the world have met together in international locations to try to scratch out a consensus about the scale of the problem and our collective response to it. As I highlighted in a previous post, the voices of scientists, economists, civil servants and vocal lobbyists from all sides of the argument have been heard. The voices of the ordinary citizens who will be most affected by any climate change, and by any global response to it, can barely be heard above the clamour. All too often their views are sought through opinion polls of better or worse provenance. Citizens have not been given the chance to reflect on the evidence and have a deep dialogue in a way that will feed into a global policy process.

Today changes all that. Conversations will take place in Bahasa Indonesia, Bangla, Chinese, English, Finnish, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, and a host of other languages. These conversations will be fed into the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December this year. The leaders that represent us there will be asked to take account of the concerns of ordinary citizens as they make far-reaching decisions that will affect the lives of all 7bn of us who live together on planet earth.

I look forward to sharing the conversations with you as the day progresses.