Over the last several decades there has been an increasing interest in deliberative democratic theories, amenable to the difficulties of representative democratic systems. Central to deliberative theories is the idea that informed debate can generate democratic consensus over controversial issues.
Within this overall context, environmental issues prove to be particularly suitable for deliberative approaches given their emphasis on common goods, on one hand, and the technical complexity of the issues at stake, on the other. Also, environmental issues typically feature a high degree of conflict that often cuts across traditional left-right political cleavages, making it even more difficult for traditional political arrangements to deal with them effectively. Fostering sustainability is likely to ignite high levels of conflict since it implies changes in deeply embedded lifestyles and ways of production, consumption.
Interest in deliberative democracy has given birth to a host of ‘techniques’ aimed at translating the ideal into actual practice. This paper reports the research design and some of the results in using one of such techniques -a citizen jury- for the first time in Italy tackle a highly conflictual issue in the city of Bologna: the limitation of private vehicle access to the ancient historical center.