EU citizen assemblies are recommending far more sufficiency-based measures than are envisaged in the current National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs). This is the finding of an analysis by researchers from the junior research group “EnSu – The role of energy sufficiency in energy transition and society”. In a peer-reviewed article, the six authors investigate the extent to which policymaking in the European context is taking account of sufficiency, and what ideas citizens have on the subject.
Sufficiency: Lower resource use through social practices and policy
Sufficiency means reducing consumption and production levels in absolute terms by making changes in behaviour. It turns on the question of how people can consume fewer resources by changing their social practices (living arrangements, diet, mobility, shopping, etc.) and which political framework conditions enable and encourage this behaviour.
Focus on eleven citizen assemblies
For their analysis, the researchers analysed the outcome documents of eleven European citizen assemblies on climate change mitigation and compared them with the planned measures from the corresponding National Energy and Climate Plans. Members of the assemblies are randomly drawn from the population and are intended to represent the population accurately – in terms of gender, educational level, age and place of residence, for example. They discuss questions of climate and energy policy as a representative cross-section of civil society.
Comparison of recommendations: Citizen forum versus EU policy
The proportion of sufficiency measures in citizen assembly proposals, at 35 per cent, is significantly higher than the share of 8 per cent contained in the NECPs. The lead author, Jonas Lage from the Europa-Universität Flensburg, finds this remarkable: “In all countries, the share of sufficiency measures in the recommendations of the citizen assemblies is three to six times as high as the share of sufficiency measures in the respective National Energy and Climate Plans. For citizen assemblies, it seems, sufficiency is obvious, intuitive or downright unavoidable as a strategy to combat climate change and safeguard a liveable future.”
They most frequently propose regulatory sufficiency measures such as restricting the advertising of energy-intensive products. Approval for sufficiency measures is over 90 per cent within the assemblies, and highest of all for regulatory measures. For Dr Benjamin Best, a senior researcher at the Wuppertal Institute, this is an unmistakable indicator: “The recommendations of the citizen assemblies provide important impulses for climate policy. They show that sufficiency measures will be accepted as reasonable solutions if the framework conditions are right.” Carina Zell-Ziegler, a staff researcher at the Oeko-Institut, adds: “In light of these high approval ratings, it would be helpful if politicians would engage more with this issue. In France, for example, the recommendations were taken up and led to the banning of short domestic flights.”
The article and the research group
The article “Citizens call for sufficiency and regulation – A comparison of European Citizen Assemblies and National Energy and Climate Plans” was published in Energy Research & Social Science and is available online here.
The junior research group “EnSu – The role of energy sufficiency in energy transition and society” has been awarded funding to a total of almost 3.5 million euros by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research under its Research for Sustainability (FONA) strategy. Six early-career researchers from the Oeko-Institut in Freiburg, the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy and the Europa-Universität Flensburg (EUF) have made it their goal, by April 2025, to make processes of societal transformation in the context of the energy transition representable in a form that is usable in energy system modelling. https://energysufficiency.de/