NEWS1 February 2022

ESRC funds net zero research programme

News Public Sector Sustainability UK

UK – The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has invested almost £6.25m in interdisciplinary environmental science research as part of the UK’s push for net zero emissions by 2050.


The investment will fund a new team bringing together social scientists and major national and local organisations to highlight the skills and insights of social scientists in research, policy making and action and foster new ideas and solutions to climate change based on data, evidence and expertise.

The team, called the collaborative climate and environment social science programme, is headed by Professor Patrick Devine-Wright of the University of Exeter, will be led by the universities of Exeter and Surrey.

The core team also includes the universities of Bath, Leeds and Sussex and the Natural Environment Social Research Network (Natural Resources Wales, NatureScot, Natural England, Environment Agency and Forest Research).

The team will work on the Advancing Capacity for Climate and Environment Social Science five-year programme to map, assess and learn from current expertise; empower environmental social scientists with the knowledge and skills required to support policy or institutional changes; and create a world-class data and information hub to enable innovative solutions.

Programme partners include other major UK and international universities, devolved governments, energy and water companies, local councils, science centres and the National Trust.

The investment will start this month, and the programme will run for the next five years.

Professor Alison Park, interim executive chair at the ESRC, said: “Tackling the climate and ecological crisis requires social science research insight, leadership and coordination across disciplines to catalyse the change required.

ESRC is investing in this new world-leading social science and interdisciplinary team of experts to provide leadership for climate and environmental social science research at a crucial time.”

“We are in a climate and ecological crisis, with profound implications for humanity and our planet. Urgent substantial action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is now required involving profound institutional and behavioural change, as well as socio-technical transitions in all sectors.

Devine-Wright said: “We need to increase the accessibility, agility and use of social science, as well as further develop the skills required to support decision makers – and with this excellent investment and team the UK can lead the way.

“Championing environmental social science, in the context of current societal disruptions such as Covid-19, has the potential to open up new solutions that effectively and fairly address environmental problems and limit the negative impacts of climate and environmental change in the critical years ahead.”