Citizens' juries: an aid to environmental valuation?
Survey techniques such as contingent valuation have been used extensively by environmental economists to develop an understanding of consumer preferences for environmental goods. On the basis of such techniques, recommendations have been formulated in relation to environmental policy. However, the exposure of weaknesses in this method has led economists to look to other information-gathering approaches which might enhance, and/or complement, environmental valuation. One such approach is that of 'citizens' juries' (CJs). A CJ consists of a small group of people, selected to represent the general public rather than any interest group or sector, which meets to deliberate upon a policy question. This approach may complement traditional approaches to data gathering on public preferences for environmental goods and services by addressing some of the concerns that have been voiced regarding existing methods. First, CJs may be useful in tackling the problem of information provision, and concerns relating to the level of understanding of the respondent. Second, CJs may be a means of addressing the 'citizen value versus consumer value' argument in environmental valuation. Third, CJs may help researchers understand how participants construct their values. Fourth, this approach allows sustainability issues to be addressed explicitly. The authors also discuss a number of problems associated with CJs and conclude with examples from two recent juries on environmental issues which were held in Scotland, and make recommendations on how environmental economists might utilise this tool.