Citizen's debate on air quality in Lille
City/Region : City of Lille , France

The city of Lille organized a citizens' debate from February to June 2019 around the theme of outdoor air quality, in order to allow the inhabitants to act collectively with the municipality against air pollution. The objective of this debate was to inform and raise citizens' awareness of air pollution issues in order to formulate a manifesto to elected representatives presenting concrete solutions to improve the quality of outdoor air.

Agendas addressed
DecarbonisationWater resources and air qualityClimate change
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement

At the intersection of many lines of communication linking several European countries, Lille is a dense city that concentrates many jobs and activities. This density of inhabitants and road traffic generates a lot of episodes of air pollution. Air quality and the fight against climate change have become major concerns for our citizens, and the City of Lille have taken measures to combat these for several years. As alerts and appeals are multiplying, we find that there is not a sufficient public debate on air quality, often reserved for a small circle of professionals. However, the issue of air quality should not be restricted to political, technical or associative experts.

In that aim, Lille has decided to hold a citizens' debate in order to allow the inhabitants to contribute to the collective reflection.

In Action

This citizens' debate took several forms in order to get a significant number of people involved. An online consultation allowed all inhabitants of the city to suggest an action to improve air quality. These proposals were transmitted to a panel of 52 citizens (representative of Lille) formed on the occasion of the organisation of a “consensus conference” for the purpose of formulating a manifesto. The objective of this document is to feed the future local action plan that the municipality wants to set up to improve the territory's air quality.

The citizens' panel first received training on air quality to develop skills on the subject and to be able to question experts.
These professionals were selected in cooperation with citizens and a total of 15 experts were finally chosen by the panel to answer its questions on 5 themes:

1. Citizens, private actors, public actors: better knowing the impacts to act for our health
2. How can we encourage action? What are the obstacles and levers to change our behaviour?
3. All actors for more responsible consumption
4. All actors to (re)think about our modes of transport
5. All actors in order to (re)think about sustainable land use planning (housing, urban planning, renewable energies, greening spaces, etc.)

Then, a phase of reflection and discussion was held to enable citizens to draft their opinion to the municipality. The panel presented this manifesto to the elected representatives at a ceremony during which the Mayor of Lille announced his commitment to study the citizens' proposals. The Children's City Council of Lille also delivered a manifesto to the elected representatives following its reflection on solutions to improve air quality.

Concerning the project management, three bodies have been created:

- A political steering committee composed of three elected representatives from Lille concerned with air quality and in charge of project governance;
- An organizing committee composed of elected representatives, a person from the associative world who specializes in citizen participation, and two independent partners to facilitate the consensus conference and train citizens on air quality issues. This committee was the guarantor of the method and organisation;
- A project team composed of municipal employees in charge of coordinating the planning and the progress of the various stages of the debate.


The citizens' debate took place over 4 months, from mid-February to mid-June 2019.

The citizens' panel, composed of 52 people, participated in 12 working meetings, representing some 40 working hours. To help the panel in its reflection, the inhabitants of Lille had the opportunity, through the online consultation, to submit ideas for action to improve air quality in the territory. A total of 329 proposals from the inhabitants also contributed to the work of the citizens' panel.

The panel delivered a manifesto of 48 proposals connected to 6 themes: sustainable spatial planning, responsible economy and consumption, mobility, governance, and communication. The mainfesto sought to inform and raise awareness on air quality issues. The themes with the most proposals were “mobility” (40% of proposals), followed by “governance” (35% of proposals). Under the "mobility" theme, the citizens' panel made proposals on soft mobility (walking, cycling, scooter, etc.), public transport, the place let to individual cars in the town centre, etc… Under the "governance" theme, the panel made proposals on collaboration with other local political organization, the mobilization of local actors (companies, associations, etc.) and the implementation of environmental policies.

Along with the work of the citizens' panel, made up of adults, 23 children from the Children's City Council of Lille participated in the debate. Their work on indoor and outdoor air quality resulted in a manifesto setting out a list of proposals which are in line with those of the citizens' panel.

Both manifestos are currently being studied by municipal employees of the City of Lille and the Mayor will come back to the citizens next October.


As the results of the debate are currently studied and not applied yet, the expected local environmental and socio-economic impacts are:

- Improve outdoor air quality in the territory;
- Improve the well-being and living conditions of the inhabitants;
- Fight against and adapt the City of Lille to climate change;
- Initiate behaviour change among the inhabitants, the private as well as the public sectors (eco-mobility, eco-conception of buildings, development of more responsible consumption, promoting circular economy, building more sustainable houses, encouraging the spread and use of renewable energies etc...) ;
- Develop and experiment with an innovative method of citizen participation in Lille in order to increase awareness among inhabitants of air quality issues, and to answer their questions and worries about air pollution thanks to the mobilization of a panel of experts;
- Increase the participation of inhabitants in environmental and sustainable development policies. In that aim, the impact for the municipality is a real change of perspective regarding future citizen participation in all its public policies, which will lead to the integration of new challenges for the City of Lille for the coming years.

In order to measure the real impacts of this debate, an assessment will be conducted in the coming months.

Challenges and lessons learned

The organisation of a citizen’s debate raises several challenges such as: training inhabitants on a very technical subject such as air quality and succeeding to involve residents over time (4 months).

Through this project the municipality learned some lessons. The first of which one would be to organise such a debate over a sufficiently long period, in order for the citizens' panel to have enough time to process all the information transmitted and to be able to deal with the subject in its entirety. The second lesson is to avoid defining a topic too broad to fit into the timetable.



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