Citizens call for sufficiency and regulation — A comparison of European citizen assemblies and National Energy and Climate Plans

There is a growing body of scientific evidence supporting sufficiency as an inevitable strategy for mitigating climate change. Despite this, sufficiency plays a minor role in existing climate and energy policies. Following previous work on the National Energy and Climate Plans of EU countries, we conduct a similar content analysis of the recommendations made by citizen assemblies on climate change mitigation in ten European countries and the EU, and compare the results of these studies. Citizen assemblies are representative mini-publics and enjoy a high level of legitimacy.

We identify a total of 860 mitigation policy recommendations in the citizen assemblies’ documents, of which 332 (39 %) include sufficiency. Most of the sufficiency policies relate to the mobility sector, the least relate to the buildings sector. Regulatory instruments are the most often proposed means for achieving sufficiency, followed by fiscal and economic instruments. The average approval rate of sufficiency policies is high (93 %), with the highest rates for regulatory policies.

Compared to National Energy and Climate Plans, the citizen assembly recommendations include a significantly higher share of sufficiency policies (factor three to six) with a stronger focus on regulatory policies. Consequently, the recommendations can be interpreted as a call for a sufficiency turn and a regulatory turn in climate mitigation politics. These results suggest that the observed lack of sufficiency in climate policy making is not due to a lack of legitimacy, but rather reflects a reluctance to implement sufficiency policies, the constitution of the policy making process and competing interests.