A CITIZENS’ jury on climate change for Kendal has been given the go-ahead and is currently recruiting jurors.

The process will involve a period of public discussion, ‘guided but not led’ by experts, which will lead to recommendations about how the town can tackle the climate emergency.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the whole process will take place over online video conferencing service Zoom, making it, according to town councillor Jon Owen, ‘the UK’s first wholly-online citizens’ jury’.

“We could of course just wait until it’s passed to meet face-to-face but, with the way Covid-19 is going, that’s so uncertain and of course this is dealing with the climate emergency, so there’s a sense of pace,” said Cllr Owen.

“We have got to make some structural changes (in society) but also we have got to make some personal changes.”

The citizens’ jury was given the green light after the £20,000 necessary to host it was raised. Almost £7,000 of this was generated by a Kendal Town Council-organised crowdfunder, with Cllr Owen saying there had also been contributions from the town, district and county councils.

The money will go towards removing obstacles - such as childcare - to people attending. Kendal man Peter Bryant, who has experience working on citizens' juries, will be paid to run the process as its 'facilitator' while the services of the Sortition Foundation are being employed to send out 4,000 letters to townsfolk inviting them to take part.

Eventually, a panel of 24 jurors will be selected which is 'reflective of the town' based on, for example, race, age, gender and attitude to the climate.

A panel including council representatives, climate-change experts and Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron will oversee the process and ‘check for quality and rigour’.

Cllr Owen said organisers were looking at presenting recommendations to Kendal Town Council in the autumn and it was hoped briefings could be given to other organisations as well, such as the district and county councils.

“This kind of method which is a lot more involved should in itself, I hope, give people faith that this is very much a good-faith consultation rather than a box-ticking exercise,” he said.

“It’s neither a plebiscite nor is it completely handing over to the experts.”