TU Delft: Researchers invite all inhabitants of the Netherlands to contribute to climate policy

Build onshore wind turbines, raise gas prices or maybe impose a meat tax? What does the Dutch population think about Dutch climate policy? Researchers from TU Delft and Utrecht University will be using a Participatory Value Evaluation (PVE) to invite thousands of Dutch people to contribute their ideas. From 5 (start 10.30) to 14 March, everyone aged 18 years or older can have their say via www.tudelft.nl/klimaatraadpleging.

The Dutch government has made agreements with other European countries to do more to tackle climate change. Following the elections, the new government will therefore need to decide on what measures they will take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as CO2. Members of the House of Representatives have previously indicated a desire to involve the population in this process.

TU Delft – Klimaatbeleid PWE

Stepping into the new government’s shoes
The consultation invites citizens to step into the new government’s shoes. They will be presented with 10 measures designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including information about the effects. For each measure, participants will then be asked to indicate the extent to which they believe that the government should introduce this measure in order to achieve the national climate targets. In the research, participants have a maximum budget of 15 billion euros. The second part of the research invites citizens to substantiate their choices, and they can also make their own suggestions to the government. Those opposing climate policy can also indicate their preference that the government should take no measures at all.

PVE is a method of evaluating policy options that facilitates the participation of large groups of citizens. The central idea is to simulate a dilemma facing a government. Citizens become more aware of the difficult choice that the government needs to make, and subsequently make recommendations. The low participation threshold of the method – it only takes 20-30 minutes to participate in the PVE, and respondents can offer their feedback when and where they choose – means that it facilitates the participation of a large and varied group of citizens.

Hybrid form of civic participation
Public discussion on civic participation is often very black and white. It either uses simplistic methods such as a referendum or opinion poll in which a complex issue is reduced to a ‘Yes/No’ choice, or it involves rigorous methods in which citizens are only able to make recommendations following many days of discussions. PVE is a hybrid form of civic participation that allows participants to express nuanced preferences based on a complete picture of policy options and effects. Participants are offered every opportunity to explain and qualify their preferences. The PVE invites citizens to step into the government’s shoes, offering them a greater understanding of the choices faced by politicians.

30,000 participants in the coronavirus PVE
This PVE method was previously used on a large (national) scale to gauge opinion of the relaxation of the coronavirus measures https://www.tudelft.nl/covidexit. Here 30,000 Dutch people offered their advice to the government on this subject in just one week.

Why invite everyone in the Netherlands?
Last week, a representative group from a panel completed the climate consultation. Participants from across the entire political spectrum were highly enthusiastic about the research, so the decision was taken to extend the invitation to everyone in the Netherlands. In the representative random sample, citizens offered innovative ideas, and it became clear that they are pleased to have the opportunity to play a meaningful role through the consultation. Even citizens who are not planning to vote in the upcoming elections took ample time to complete the PVE and advise their government regarding climate policy. Differences between citizens sometimes prove to be much less pronounced than televised talk shows and political debates may suggest, and there are also measures that are much more popular with citizens than with politicians, and vice versa.

Usefulness of the results
The government can use the results of this PVE to fine-tune policy. Statistical techniques can be used to determine how participants’ preferences for a measure are influenced by the effects. These analyses also offer insight into the differences/similarities between groups of Dutch people. The arguments offered by participants for their choices offer a keen insight into their values, motivations and concerns.

About this research
The research is being conducted by academics from TU Delft and Utrecht University, together with TU start-up Populytics. It is being funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). The results will be shared at the beginning of April with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, and the Climate Agreement Progress Report, in time for the formation of the new government after the election on the 17th of March. The researchers have not received any funding from these government bodies.

Societal context
This research is part of a wider movement to more actively involve citizens in policymaking. Ed Nijpels, chair of the National Climate Agreement, previously published this editorial on the subject: ‘Geef burgers via panels stem in klimaatbeleid’ (Give citizens a voice in climate policy through panels, in Dutch). In the course of March, the Brenninkmeijer Committee will publish recommendations on citizen panels (in Dutch).