World Wide Views on Climate and Energy

Copenhagen (Denmark)


In 2015, the World Wide Views on Climate and Energy (WWV) initiative engaged over 10,000 citizens in more than 100 locations worldwide to deliberate on climate change and energy policies. Participants were provided with balanced information and encouraged to discuss and express their opinions. The results of these deliberations were compiled into policy recommendations, which were presented to policymakers at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris. WWV aimed to provide a platform for public input on global climate policy discussions, raise awareness about climate issues, and underscore the importance of involving ordinary citizens in shaping climate and energy policies on a global level.

The participatory process commenced due to a series of factors. In 2007, various citizen participation methods were introduced in Denmark, leading to the provision of advisory services to the National Government of Denmark. As policymaking began shifting towards the European level, diverse approaches for pan-European citizen engagement were formulated, along with advice on implementing such initiatives at the European level.

Subsequently, in 2009, when Copenhagen hosted the COP15 Copenhagen Climate Summit, an opportunity arose to establish a global framework for citizen participation. This event catalysed the development of the method. It is noteworthy that the decision-making process of the United Nations is intricate and distinct. While member states and organised groups, including Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), have established means to engage with negotiators, there exists no established mechanism for ordinary citizens to participate. This absence of global-level citizen participation mechanisms poses both political and methodological challenges that require resolution.

The World Wide Views project constitutes the third and final global initiative. It was linked to the 2015 COP summit in Paris. The inaugural project, “World Wide Views on Global Warming,” took place in 2009 and was affiliated with the COP summit held in Copenhagen. Subsequently, the “World Wide Views on Biodiversity 2012” project was established in connection with the Biodiversity COP in Doha.

The maturity of deliberative democracyDeliberative democracy is a form of democracy in which decision-making is based on deliberation rather than mere voting. In this approach, citizens engage in discussions, debates, and dialogue to consider various viewpoints and information before making decisions. It emphasises the importance of reasoned argument, informed participation, and consensus-building in shaping public policy. Deliberative democracy aims to improve the quality and legitimacy of democratic decisions by involving citizens directly in the policymaking process. varies significantly on a global scale. Regions such as Europe, USA and Australia are at the forefront of citizen participation. Moreover, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan have well-established traditions in this area, with a growing emphasis in South America in recent years. India and Africa also engage in citizen participation but to a lesser extent.

In contrast, regions like the Middle East and Central Asia lack a strong tradition or practice in deliberative democracy. While both China and Russia have been involved in some experimental efforts, these initiatives have not been extensive nor well-established.

The UN faces financial constraints and lacks funding for initiatives like the one described. Its primary focus is to secure funding for its own priorities through contributions from parties to the Convention. However, the UN can offer support to initiatives by taking them under its wing and assisting their progress.

External funding for the World Wide Views 2015 initiative came from various sources, including the French Government, the French National Assembly, the Municipality of Paris, the KR Foundation, and other public and private organisations. These entities included the French National Commission for Public Debate, 13 French regions, ENGIE, the German Environmental Agency, the European Space Agency, Fondation de France, Socialists and European Greens (EELV), and the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment. The method was developed, and external funding was secured to make the World Wide Views 2015 initiative possible in preparation for the COP summit that same year.

Setting up a methodology for a global process involves numerous tradeoffs. Their primary objective was to create a methodology that was clear and straightforward, making it easy for local partners to participate. The model they adopted aimed to have 100 participants in each country, or, in some cases, like India or the US, 100 participants per state, irrespective of the event host country’s size or location.

This approach aligned with the UN’s one-country, one-vote decision-making process, as the initiative was developing materials for the UN. National partners were established in each of the participating countries, with some countries, such as the US or India, having multiple national partners. In the case of the US, for example, they organised six participating states, each with 100 assemblies. The results from these assemblies were then aggregated to represent the overall attitudes in the US.

Selection criteria were based on demographic factors such as age, gender, occupation, educational attainment, and membership in green organisations, which served as a proxy for engagement in climate-related matters. The organisers provided national partners with selection criteria and suggested various recruitment strategiesRecruitment strategies for participatory processes aim to ensure diverse and inclusive participation. These include targeted outreach to underrepresented groups, public advertising across various media, partnerships with community organisations, offering incentives, and utilising online platforms. The goal is to engage a wide audience, encouraging broad involvement in decision-making and consultation activities. that partners could adapt to their specific needs and experiences.

To enhance partner capacities, they facilitated knowledge exchanges between partners with varying levels of experience in conducting participatory processes. Partners were responsible for developing their recruitment strategies, which underwent central checks by the organisers before approval. Translation of information materials, videos, and instructions into national languages were necessary, despite limited financial resources and financial obligations.

To support the initiative, they also connected countries with potential funders, although these countries were expected to finance their own participatory processes to some extent.

Providing a general overview of the initiative is challenging due to its vast scale. It required a cautious approach because resources and capacities varied significantly from one country to another. While some processes were highly inclusive and employed random selectionRandom selection is a form of sampling where a representative group of research participants is selected from a larger group by chance. methods to ensure the representation of vulnerable groups and minorities, not all countries and organisations had the means to create representative or universally inclusive assemblies.

For instance, in Canada, an approach was taken to overrepresent indigenous populations to accurately reflect their perspectives. There was an ongoing dialogue regarding inclusivity, but given the magnitude of the global initiative, it was not feasible to oversee every aspect comprehensively.

The process of developing the central questions and preparations for the initiative was a lengthy one. Organisers engaged in discussions with various COP negotiators and civil society organisations to anticipate and understand the key topics that would be discussed at the COP in Paris. This process, along with fundraising efforts, extended over a couple of years.

Building partnerships also proved to be time-consuming, and it was closely intertwined with fundraising activities. They had to reach out to potential partners even before securing the actual funding. Once the central questions were collected, they compiled the necessary manuals and provided training for national partners on recruitmentRecruitment of participants involves identifying and engaging individuals to take part in activities, studies, or projects. This process is crucial for gathering diverse inputs, ensuring representativeness, and enhancing the validity of outcomes. It typically includes strategies like outreach, advertising, and incentivization to attract and enroll suitable candidates. and other related tasks. It was also essential to keep UN member nations informed about the upcoming initiative.

The actual assemblies took place in June 2015, leading up to the COP, held in October 2015 in Paris. All the assemblies occurred on the same day and garnered significant media attention and coverage. These assemblies were divided into five sessions, featuring an introduction phase and a combination of discussion and information sessionsIn citizen assembly processes, an information session serves as a preliminary meeting to educate participants about the assembly’s purpose, structure, and topics of discussion. It provides an overview of the decision-making process, the role of evidence and expert testimony, and the expectations for participant engagement. This session is key to preparing members for informed and constructive participation in the deliberations that follow., culminating in an individual voting phaseThe voting phase is when participants in a decision-making process cast their votes to finalise choices or decisions. It’s crucial for reflecting collective preferences and can involve methods like secret ballots or electronic voting to ensure fairness and accuracy.. Votes were promptly uploaded to a central database, allowing real-time tracking of results, a strategy designed to attract media attention.

Between the actual assembly events and the COP, the focus shifted to ensuring the results of the assemblies were disseminated widely. Their goal was to make the assembly results known and to present these findings at preparatory meetings to inform and influence negotiators involved in the COP.

The fundraising efforts required to facilitate such a massive initiative were substantial and demanded a significant amount of resources and energy. Nevertheless, the methodology itself proved to be effective, resulting in a multilevel impactMultilevel impact refers to the effects or outcomes of an action, policy, or project that are felt across different layers or aspects of society, including individual, community, and systemic levels. This concept acknowledges that changes in one area can ripple through and influence various sectors, demographics, and environments, often in complex and interconnected ways. It highlights the importance of considering broad and diverse consequences when planning or evaluating initiatives.. It had the capacity to stimulate discussions at the local, national, and global levels, even extending to regional dialogues. This allowed for the comparison of different regions across the world, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding.

One limitation of the initiative was its inability to bring citizens from different countries together for a unified conversation. This would have added complexity and increased costs, but it could have been more meaningful in terms of incorporating a wide range of perspectives. Currently, this approach is being pursued by the EU through the Conference on the Future of Europe, which involves a multilingual deliberative processMultilevel impact refers to the effects or outcomes of an action, policy, or project that are felt across different layers or aspects of society, including individual, community, and systemic levels. This concept acknowledges that changes in one area can ripple through and influence various sectors, demographics, and environments, often in complex and interconnected ways. It highlights the importance of considering broad and diverse consequences when planning or evaluating initiatives.. Developing such processes further remains an important area of focus in the field of citizen participation.

The implementation of the initiative was riddled with numerous challenges and logistical complexities. Many small issues arose during the process, making it a considerable logistical exercise.

One significant insight gained from the experience was the realisation that even highly ambitious initiatives can be initiated and successfully carried through to completion. It served as a positive reinforcement that such endeavors are feasible and can be executed sensibly. While political systems and governments around the world have been somewhat hesitant to include participatory elements in their decision-making processes, there is a growing openness to do so on a global scale.

Observations indicate that cities and municipalities are leading the way in this regard, but meaningful citizen engagement in decision-making processes remains a distant goal. Deliberative processes are typically consultative or informative in nature, and the decisions made in such processes are often non-bindingNon-binding refers to agreements, decisions, or resolutions that are not legally enforceable or mandatory. While they may express intentions, recommendations, or commitments, they do not have the legal authority to compel action or compliance. Non-binding measures are often used to guide, suggest, or signal preferences without imposing legal obligations. and non-compulsory for decision-makers.

Despite this, there’s reluctance to suggest that direct democracyDirect democracy is a form of democracy where citizens have the direct power to decide on laws and policies, without going through representatives. It involves mechanisms like referendums, initiatives, and plebiscites, allowing the public to vote directly on legislative proposals or policy questions. This system aims to give citizens a more direct role in legislative decisions, policy formation, and governance., in its current form, is entirely viable. It’s believed by experts that humanity is still in an immature stage when it comes to operating a truly direct democracy. However, the focus should be on enhancing the power of citizen participation within the political system, moving towards a more participatory and inclusive approach to governance.

The World Wide Views on Climate and Energy (WWV) initiative, launched in 2015, stands as a remarkable global endeavor to incorporate public opinion into climate change and energy policy deliberations. Engaging over 10,000 participants across more than 100 locations worldwide, WWV facilitated a comprehensive dialogue on climate issues, culminating in policy recommendations presented at the COP21 in Paris. This initiative underscores the critical role of ordinary citizens in shaping global climate policies, aiming to bridge the gap between policymakers and the public while fostering awareness and active participation in environmental decision-making. Originating from Denmark’s innovative citizen participation methods, WWV sought to address the absence of a global mechanism for ordinary citizen engagement in United Nations’ decision-making processes. Amidst varying levels of deliberative democracy maturity globally, this initiative showcased an inclusive approach by striving for demographic representation across different countries, despite the inherent challenges regarding inclusivity and logistical complexities.Funded by a mix of governmental and private entities, the initiative demonstrated the feasibility of conducting ambitious participatory projects on a global scale. The recruitment strategy emphasised demographic diversity, aiming for a broad spectrum of opinions and perspectives. However, the initiative also encountered limitations, such as the logistical challenge of hosting a unified global dialogue and ensuring the inclusivity of marginalised groups. WWV’s outcomes highlighted the potential for citizen assemblies to influence global policy discussions, though it also revealed the complexities of translating participatory input into actionable policy decisions. This experience offers valuable lessons for future endeavors in global citizen participation, emphasising the need for continued innovation in methods of engaging diverse populations in critical policy discussions. The initiative exemplifies the potential and challenges of integrating public consultation into the fabric of international policymaking, serving as a model for future efforts to democratise the policy-making process on pressing global issues.

Based on an interview conducted with Bjorn Bedsted (, former Global Coordinator of World Wide Views and current International Director of the Danish Board of Technology on 25 April 2023.