Democracy and Climate Change

When: Thursday, March 11, 2021, 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Where: Online,

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The climate emergency is the most important issue facing governments across the world. But can Britain’s democratic institutions cope with a challenge on this scale? Do we need new forms of democratic decision-making, such as climate assemblies and citizens’ juries, or might it be necessary, as the environmentalist James Lovelock has argued, “to put democracy on hold for a while”? Are democracies capable of long-term decision-making, or of co-ordinating action across generations? What is the role of climate protest in a democratic society, and why did the issue feature so little in the 2019 General Election?

To discuss these issues, join our expert panellists Hilary Benn MP (former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Caroline Lucas MP (former leader of the Green Party), David Runciman (University of Cambridge and Talking Politics podcast) and Rebecca Willis (expert lead, UK Climate Assembly), to explore the relationship between the future of democracy and the future of the planet.

Hilary Benn is Labour MP for Leeds Central. He has served as Secretary of State for International Development, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Shadow Foreign Secretary, and was the inaugural chair of the parliamentary Select Committee for Exiting the European Union.

Caroline Lucas is MP for Brighton Pavilion and Britain’s only Green Party MP. She led the party from 2008 to 2012 and was co-leader from 2016 to 2018. She previously served as a Member of the European Parliament for South-East England from 1999 to 2010.

David Runciman is Professor of Politics at the University of Cambridge. His many books and publications include How Democracy Ends (2018) and The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present (2013). He hosts the Talking Politics podcast with Helen Thompson, and is a Director of the Leverhulme-funded Conspiracy and Democracy Project.

Rebecca Willis is a Professor in Practice and Fellow in Energy and Climate Governance at the Lancaster Environment Centre. She has served as a lead advisor to the Climate Assembly UK and was Vice-Chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission from 2004 to 2011. Her book, Too Hot to Handle: The Democratic Challenge of Climate Change, was published in 2020.

This webinar forms part of the Mile End Institute’s British Democracy Series. For future events, please sign up to the Mile End Institute mailing list at