Investment will help social science experts accelerate net-zero

£6.25m worth of investment will ensure that social science experts play a central role in helping the UK meet its net-zero targets. 

The investment from the Economic and Social Research Council will be used to fund the Advancing Capacity for Climate and Environment Social Science (ACCESS) five-year programme 

The programme will bring together an environmental leadership team and will be headed by Professor Patrick Devine-Wright from the University of Exeter.

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

Together the team will ensure that the UK understands how to achieve the human and institutional change needed to deliver net-zero and other critical environmental and sustainability goals. 

people meeting in room

The researchers will also map, assess and learn from current expertise, empower environmental social scientists with the knowledge and skills required and create a data and information hub to enable new solutions. 

Professor Devine-Wright said: ‘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.

‘This multi-faceted crisis demands the skills, insights and leadership of social scientists in relation to research, policy-making and action. 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.

‘Critically, environmental solutions are often framed as technological or ecological fixes, underestimating the importance of social aspects. Championing environmental social science, in the context of current societal disruptions such as Covid, 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.’



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