In October 2019, a group of 150 French citizens from all backgrounds and age groups were brought together by the
French Government to form the Climate Citizen Convention (CCC). Their task? Nothing less than developing France’s future policies for climate action. These were ordinary citizens, selected completely at random, with no
formal training in climate issues or public policy. Yet in the space of six months, they produced a set of recommendations for the French President that surprised many experts in their ambition and vision for how France
could reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with its commitments under the Paris Agreement. How did they achieve this – and what does their success tell us about citizen participation in policymaking, climate ambition, and even accelerating energy efficiency ? The Process The members of the CCC began their journey with only a basic understanding of the main issues relating to climate change. To conduct their work,they first embarked on a series
of informatory interviews with a range of experts from different fields: physicists, climate change specialists, policymakers, economists, and civil society representatives. Then over ten working weekends, the group met to pen a series of 150 proposals for the French Government, putting forth a range of financial, technical, and behavioral measures for local and national implementation. These proposals were presented to the French President, Emmanuel Macron, and his cabinet in June 2020 and included the following recommendations, among others:
• To amend the nationalconstitution to introduce strict environmental protection clauses for future French
• To lower energy demand through greater energy efficiency in the built environment, transportation, and industry including by introducing mandatory provisions for deep renovation of existing building stock, banning coal and oil furnaces for space heating, reducing the highway speed limit from 130km/h to 110km/h, and mainstreaming carbon
disclosures in industry.
• To ban commercials and advertisement campaigns for products and lifestyles incompatible with a low carbon
• To encourage and prioritize investments into renewable energy. The CCC’s work concluded with the French Government’s decision to adopt 146 of the 150 proposals, which will now go through France’s legislative process to become law.
The Lessons The CCC shows us the critical importance of educating citizens as the basis for participatory, fact-driven policymaking. For example, members of the group may not have started out with any notion of energy efficiency,but through successful citizen engagement and knowledgesharing with experts, they ended up proposing it as one of the solutions for France to attain its target of reducing GHG emissions by 40% by 2030. This casts doubt
on some inherent assumptions, such as that ordinary citizens care more for convenience and continuing their normal lives than engaging with technically complex questions – let alone endorsing potentially disruptive policy changes to protect the planet. For the energy efficiency community, there is a lesson here for how we could communicate, advocate, and raise the visibility of energy efficiency beyond our field. There is also hope that certain biases can be overcome through processes like the CCC – not one citizen who was selected chose to leave the group before the work was done, regardless of what their personal views may have been on the climate crisis. Knowledge is at the heart of climate action, and is in particular at the heart of the energy transition we face. The question is how we can promote open exchanges and knowledgesharing approaches that reach those who may not otherwise
have chosen to care, learn more, or affect change. Benoit Lebot has more than 20 years experience in energy
efficiency. During his extensive career, he has worked for the French National Energy and Environmental Agency (ADEME),the International Energy Agency (IEA), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
From 2014-2019, he served as the last Executive Director of the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC), where he worked with member states in further elevating energy efficiency on the international policy agenda, including at the Group of 20 (G20). In his current role, Benoit advises the French Government on clean energy and sustainability issues at the Ministry of Ecological and Inclusive Transition.
Jurei Yada has spent her career in intergovernmental cooperation working with G20, OECD, and developing economies to advance their clean energy, climate, and sustainability policy goals. At IPEEC, she worked with Benoit to implement the G20’s collaborative energy efficiency agenda, including as Deputy Head (2018-19), and represented IPEEC at COP numerous times. She currently manages the activities of the Bern Network on Financing
Data for Development – an OECD-based multi-stakeholder alliance dedicated to achieving more and better resourcing of sustainable development data for the 2030 Agenda.
The views and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the
authors and do not represent those of the institutions where the authors
former Chair of the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency
Coordination Lead, Bern Network on Financing Data for Development,