Deliberative democracy

Democracy in Action: The National People's Assembly 2008

Programme for the National People's Assembly 29-30 August 2008
Download the official programme
Andrew Ash's (CSIRO) presentation on adaptation initatives for the Asia Pacific Region
Presented at the National People's Assembly

Deliberative democracy in action: The National People's Assembly builds an agenda for action


Rising sea levels threaten the livelihoods of millions of our Asia Pacific neighbours, and crucial adaptation, mitigation and human rights reforms are needed to prepare for a century of people on the move.


Our neighbour's problems have a tendency to become our own, and so Australia needs to prepare for what might happen.


At the moment, no international convention covers the issue of environmental displacement, and the world needs to think about how the burden of coping with people on the moved will be shared.


We need a response that does not further contribute to rising temperatures - we need a sustainable solution supported business, government and the community.


That's what The National People's Assembly was all about.


This project was developed using a Danish model of deliberative democracy similar to a "citizen's jury", but with extensive interaction and briefing with dozens of eminent experts over a three month period culminating in a deep deliberation which considered input from sixteen leading academic, business and community leaders.


The recommendations made by the Citizens Panel of 14 representative Australians represent the collective judgement of highly informed citizens and they can help us decide what action our country should take.

Participants discussed the possibilities and consequences for our region with a range of experts from science, humanitarian, environmental, business, security and legal/human rights areas.

Read the 'verdict' the citizen's panel delivered on how Australia should tackle this important issue, including recommendations for business leaders, scientists and policy makers.


Green Cross is laying foundations with government leaders that will ensure the verdict influences our country's future actions.


We are also building the groundwork for direct action to deliver outcomes in key areas recommended by the National People's Assembly, together with a network of influential partners.



Urgent action needed to prepare for rising sea levels: what's at risk

Warming seas, melting glaciers and retreating ocean ice are causing sea levels to rise. Coastal cities, towns, food and water supplies are all at risk.


Scientists predict that 145 million people - mostly in the Asia-Pacific region - will be displaced if seas rise by 1 metre. Some scientists think that a 5 metre sea level rise within this century is possible.

This is not an abstract concept. This is a reality and it will affect your local community. Australians love living near the coast so we are very exposed.


Sea level rise will hit our region hard. Low-lying Pacific Islands may gradually disappear. Large populations closely packed together on or near the coast in cities such as Dhaka, Shanghai, Jakarta, Singapore, Tokyo, Mumbai and Bangkok will be displaced. Some of the major river deltas in Vietnam, China, Thailand and the Philippines are at risk.


First melting glaciers will cause more flooding, then reduced water flows will make land much less productive. There will be conflicts across river borders as water flows shift.



Other climate impacts combine to threaten livelihoods


Rising sea levels will combine with other climate change impacts to threaten people's livelihoods. Access to clean water will change along with rainfall patterns; there will be great risk of illness due to heat stress, malnutrition, and the spread of infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

More people on the move could increase the risk of conflict, whether they are forced to leave their homes in the Pacific or if they are forced to move within their national borders as is more likely in Asia. Already, more refugees and internally displaced people are from Asia than any other region in the world.


Some governments may lack the capacity to adapt to sea-level rise, and this will increase the risk of political disturbances and cross-border migration.



Sustainable response needed


Because Australia's neighbours produce greatly lower per capita greenhouse emissions, mass migration would significantly increase Australia and the planet's overall contribution to climate change - unless we find ways to significantly reduce Australia's carbon footprint.


There has been much debate about the cost of this transition and the viability of some technologies that could contribute to the solution.


The National People's Assembly offers ordinary citizens an opportunity to engage with this vital dimension of how we should prepare for people displacement due to sea level rise in our region.


Green Cross Australia is grateful to Griffith University, the Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council for supporting this event.


We greatly appreciate the financial support provided by the Perpetual Foundation and the George Alexander Foundation who understood the power of the method used and the crucial importance of the challenge we are tackling.

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