Climate Change is one of the most pressing global challenges facing society today. The United Nations (UN) has highlighted the potential for climate change to cause major disruption to national economies and impact on the lives and livelihoods of people and communities worldwide.

The demand for research evidence to inform our understanding of and response to climate change has never been greater. 195 countries have signed the Paris Agreement, and countries across the UN are committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Furthering our understanding of the individual, cultural, political and corporate dimensions and interactions will be essential to drive the social, structural and systemic change that is required.

Social science is fundamental to tackling the complex challenges posed by climate change and we are mobilising to lead the interdisciplinary research community in seeking sustainable and equitable solutions. To achieve this, in 2016 climate change became one of our key ESRC research priorities. Our 2019 Delivery Plan focuses on the research priority area of “Global development, environment and society” as one of the most pressing long-term global challenges, and we will continue to fund world-leading research to better understand these issues, find, evaluate and implement solutions, inform better choices and increase societal resilience.

We are investing a significant amount in a s strategic investments from 2019 to 2024 that will build on substantive ESRC investment to-date.

The focus of these investments range from understanding the impact of climate change on communities and the role governments and political structures have in managing and mitigating those impacts, to examining systemic energy supply and demand, energy transitions and pathways towards driving, governing and sustaining emissions reductions. The scale of these investigations also vary along geographic, geopolitical, sectoral, local and international lines.

In the UK, the publication of the Clean Growth Strategy and the DEFRA 25-year Environmental Plan provide clear opportunities for social science to take a leading role and make a substantial contribution. Through the co-design of research with a range of stakeholders, including those from industry, policy and across civil society, we will benefit from a broad range of perspectives that will enable us to inform tangible policy and practice outcomes.

We are building on our current portfolio of research across areas such as the economics of climate change, sustainable prosperity, exploration of the environment-energy-water nexus, and investigations into issues around food security, environmental sustainability and innovative energy systems. We are funding new research that complements this current portfolio and covers a broad spectrum of social science relating to climate change.

This includes the recently funded Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST), a £5 million climate change research centre at Cardiff University, and the Place-based Climate Action Network (P-CAN), a £3.5 million research network to support the UK’s transition to a low-carbon economy.

ESRC are involved in a number of funding calls in the environmental space under the Strategic Priorities Fund, for more information in calls we are involved in, please see the UKRI website.

Funding calls

ESRC investment