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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Time for new ‘Attenborough Award’ to inspire today’s schoolchildren on nature, say citizens on new climate jury

  • First of four ground-breaking panels around UK urges ring-fenced carbon taxes, ‘green bonds’ and higher spending to hit net zero
  • Call to re-use old mine shafts as heat sources and build wind farms on derelict land once the site of former heavy industry
  • Local decision making is needed to ensure the move to a low carbon economy is delivered fairly, to benefit all, say jurors

A new ‘Attenborough Award’ to inspire children about nature, alongside scholarships to help people into new ‘green’ jobs, are among more than 30 fresh ideas thrown up by a 'jury’ of citizens, to help the UK and their own community shift to a ‘net zero’ carbon economy.

The representative group of 23 residents in a heavily industrial area of England spent more than 20 hours quizzing experts, then discussing practical options for their local area and producing their list of recommendations. The group ranged in age from 16 to 75 and included a wide range of occupations as well as students, non-working parents and retirees.
Nationwide measures they propose include ring-fenced carbon taxes on the heaviest polluters, the creation of green bonds to finance low-carbon industries and a national nature service, as well as the new national award and scholarship schemes named after the wildlife broadcaster, David Attenborough.

Jurors also call for new taxes on the UK profits and assets of international companies, to ensure they pay their fair share of the costs involved in moving to a low-carbon economy, and for developers to deliver a ‘net gain for nature’ from every new building project.

The panel, drawn from Tees Valley and County Durham, are the first of four ‘citizens’ juries’ across the UK to feed the outcome of their deliberations into IPPR’s cross-party Environmental Justice Commission, which will report later this year. The jurors were selected from more than 4,000 residents who were contacted about the jury last year.

Jurors first heard from local and national experts on topics from the climate and nature crises to industry and work, and on policymaking. They also discussed issues with local council leaders, trades unions and nature organisations before deliberating among themselves, drawing on their own experience and local expertise. Their 32 recommendations for local and national action are published by IPPR today.

The UK’s legally binding carbon-reduction targets pose a major challenge for Tees Valley as its energy-intensive industries currently generate 13 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year – three times the UK average.

Given that, jurors were asked: “What practical steps should we take together in Tees Valley and County Durham to address the climate crisis and restore nature in a way that is fair for everyone?”

Their answers included community energy projects using redundant mine shafts as an underground energy source and industrial wasteland for windfarms; using carbon tax revenues from local polluters to finance green projects in the same area; and subsidising retail space for local food producers.

Central to all their proposals is the notion of fairness. In a joint statement in the report the jurors say:

“No one can be left out. A fair response to the climate and nature emergencies needs to increase equality in society. Local people need to be empowered to act. Every area is unique and a ‘one size fits all’ approach isn’t going to work.

“Local areas need to create their own plans and priorities based on their local assets. They will need the resources to see these plans through.

“The cost of acting now is much less than the cost of inaction, both in the UK and worldwide.”

Jurors welcomed the process of deliberative democracy as a way of addressing the profound change needed to reach the UK’s climate targets, and wanted more. They said in the report:

“Even when people don't necessarily come from the same background and beliefs, we have similar thoughts about the importance of positive action and trying to change for the better. We need more information, more support and we need our voices heard.” 

One juror, Brian, a chemical industry worker from Stockton-on-Tees, said:

“We need actions to be fair. We need everyone to be involved, and people will only be involved if they see a benefit for themselves and believe that they aren’t being left behind.”

Monika, a full-time parent from Hartlepool, said:

“The experience on this panel has actually taught me that when we are connected more directly, more hands-on with a project, we start to care more.”

The jurors’ findings will be considered by the cross-party commission, co-chaired by Hillary Benn, Laura Sandys and Caroline Lucas, for its final report, which will be released in early summer 2021.

Hilary Benn MP said: 

The jurors have given us an invaluable insight into how they think the UK should address the climate and nature crises. 

“They want government at all levels, business and civil society to be ambitious but they are also crystal clear that we must address wider inequalities and that the public must be involved in the process every step of the way.

“The jurors have also put forward a number of great ideas which include the creation of a new ‘Attenborough Award’ to inspire the next generation.” 

Caroline Lucas MP said: 

Sometimes ministers give the impression that they don’t believe the public will accept bold policies in response to the climate emergency, but these proposals from people from all walks of life, shows this couldn’t be further from the truth.

“There’s a real appetite for an ambitious approach to addressing the climate and nature crises, provided that those policies also increase equality, improve wellbeing and put local communities in the driving seat. Co-producing plans with local people isn’t an optional ’nice to have’ - it’s critical to a successful outcome."

Laura Sandys said:

“These recommendations combine climate action with levelling up through great low carbon jobs and opportunities. Crucially, they're not just supported by the public, they've been made by them.

They show that investing in the low carbon businesses of the future are a win-win for the economy, jobs and the environment."

Becca Massey-Chase, deputy head of the IPPR Environmental Justice Commission, said:

““As the participants of this citizens’ jury clearly demonstrate, local people are experts in what it means to live a good life in their area, and they care deeply about the wellbeing and success of their community. Their insights are invaluable, and policymakers would do well to heed their recommendations to ensure they tackle the climate and nature crises in a way that addresses inequality and creates opportunities for all.”


Luke Murphy and Becca Massey-Chase, the head and a joint deputy head of the Environmental Justice Commission, are available for broadcast interview


David Wastell, Head of News and Communications: 07921 403651 [email protected]

Robin Harvey, Digital and Media Officer: 07779 204798 [email protected]


  1. The IPPR paper, Tees Valley and County Durham climate and fairness panel: Briefing and juror recommendations by the jurors, with additional content from IPPR’s Stephen Frost, Becca Massey-Chase, Luke Murphy and Lesley Rankin will be published at 0001 on Thursday 11 February. It will be available for download at:
  2. Advance copies of the report including all the jury’s recommendations are available under embargo on request.
  3. If you are interested in covering the citizens’ jury process, please contact IPPR. Locations where juries have not yet completed their work are Thurrock and Aberdeenshire. All meetings are currently held virtually.
  4. The Tees Valley and County Durham Climate and Fairness Panel was organised by the IPPR Environmental Justice Commission. The recommendations of the panel will be presented to local politicians and decision-makers and submitted to the major national cross-party commission. Further citizen juries are being held in the South Wales Valleys, Aberdeenshire and Thurrock.
  5. Among key recommendations by the citizen’s jury are:

    Fairly sharing the costs of the green transition
    Jurors agreed that considerable investment was needed for the green transition but were clear that this should be paid for fairly. They proposed progressive tax rises on people and firms, closing loopholes for tax avoiders, and ring-fencing raising taxes on polluters for investment in local green projects. They also proposed green bonds, so that everyone can contribute and benefit in a wartime like effort.

    Investment in lifetime learning
    Jurors said that education had to be central to a fair transition, with low carbon skills training needed for all ages. They also proposed an ‘Attenborough Scholarship’ to encourage young people into low carbon jobs and an ‘Attenborough Award’ modelled on the Duke of Edinburgh Award to teach young people about nature.

    Community ownership – The jurors decided that local ownership of assets, such as energy companies and community green spaces would mean that citizens had more control over and a greater stake in the decisions that affect them.

    Boosting local decision-making – The jurors felt that locally tailored policy was most likely to lead to fairer and better outcomes. They proposed increasing local control of industrial strategy, education and planning to ensure all building projects ensured a net gain for nature. Jurors also felt that more Citizens Juries and local policy-making panels drawing in all local stakeholders were key to good climate and nature policymaking.
  6. The cross-party IPPR Environmental Justice Commission was created in 2019 with the aim of working with people across the UK to develop policies and ideas that will tackle the climate crisis and restore nature as quickly and fairly as possible. The commission is co-chaired by Hilary Benn MP, Laura Sandys and Caroline Lucas MP, leading politicians from the Labour, Conservative and Green Parties. Find out more here:
  7. Members of the Tees Valley and County Durham Climate and Fairness Panel advisory board:
    • Beth Farhat, regional secretary, Northern TUC and member of the IPPR Environmental Justice Commission
    • Paul Booth OBE, chair, Tees Valley LEP and member of the IPPR Environmental Justice Commission
    • Cllr Robert Cook, leader, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council
    • Cllr Heather Scott, leader, Darlington Borough Council
    • Ammar Mirza CBE, chair of Asian Business Connexions
    • Catriona Lingwood, chief executive, Constructing Excellence North East
    • Carol Botten, chief executive, VONNE (Voluntary Organisations Network North East)
    • Jim Cokill, chief executive, Durham Wildlife Trust
    • Louise Hunter, corporate affairs director, Northumbrian Water Group

8. IPPR is the UK’s pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence.