Scientists from across five countries will collaborate on ambitious research to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between humans and their environment in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In September 2015, 193 world leaders committed to the 17 Global Goals, with the aim of ending extreme poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030. In 2017, NERC and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) worked with the Rockefeller Foundation, commissioning a report delivered by the University of Sussex, which found that understanding the multiple ways we, as humans, interact with and depend on the environment is essential to achieving these aims.

Now, a multilateral call between the UK, India, China, Japan and Sweden has resulted in a collective £4·3 million funding for eight two-year research projects placing human-environment interactions at the heart of achieving the UN Global Goals.

The Towards a Sustainable Earth (TaSE) research programme has seen NERC join forces with ESRC, both part of UK Research and Innovation, in collaboration with the Japanese Science and Technology Agency, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Indian Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Swedish research council Formas.

NERC Executive Chair Professor Duncan Wingham said:

"Realising the ambitions of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, hunger and inequality across the globe, while preserving and maintaining our environmental resources, is key to ensuring future wellbeing and prosperity in both developed and developing countries.

"These multi-disciplinary projects will bring together researchers from five countries to help us understand the complex relationships between people and the environment, leading the global effort on finding comprehensive solutions to global challenges."

Professor Alison Park, Director of Research at ESRC, said:

"ESRC is delighted to be supporting these valuable multi-disciplinary projects which aim to significantly improve our understanding of how people interact with their environment. Social science can shed unique insights in this area, and these contributions will be an important part of the journey towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals"

Yoshiko Shirokizawa, Executive Director, Japan Science and Technology Agency, said:

"The TaSE programme explores the relationship between the natural environment and human society, with research outcomes expected to be employed for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Each project of this programme involves stakeholders from multiple sectors and countries to co-design research agendas and co-produce research results, together tackling the serious problems affecting both the natural environment and human society. We hope that their research outcomes will be utilised in many countries and regions and generate new methodologies for the realisation of a sustainable Earth."

DBT Secretary Dr Renu Swarup, said:

"Achieving sustainable development goals is the topmost priority for India. Department of Biotechnology, Government of India has endeavoured to meet the enormous challenges that depleting natural resources and increasing human population puts on the planet. For a population of 1.3 billion it is vital that we collaborate with countries across the globe and address these challenges in a holistic and targeted manner."

The projects awarded funding are as follows:

  • Nature's contribution to poverty alleviation, human wellbeing and the SDGs (Nature4SDGs)
    Kate Schreckenberg, King's College London
    Countries: UK, India, Sweden
  • Peri-urbanisation and climate-environment change (PERI-CENE)
    Joseph Ravetz, The University of Manchester
    Countries: UK, India, Sweden
  • Social-economic-environmental trade-offs in managing the land-river-interface
    Robert Grabowski, Cranfield University
    Countries: UK, China, India
  • River basins as 'living laboratories' for achieving sustainable development goals across national and sub-national scales
    Fabrice Renaud, University of Glasgow
    Countries: UK, China, Japan
  • Opportunities and trade-offs between the SDGs for food, welfare and the environment in deltas
    Robert Nicholls, University of Southampton
    Countries: UK, India, Sweden
  • Opportunities for climate mitigation and sustainable development (OPTIMISM)
    Raphael Slade, Imperial College London
    Countries: UK, Japan, India, Sweden
  • A systems approach to sustainable sanitation challenges in urbanising China (SASSI)
    Deljana Iossifova, The University of Manchester
    Countries: UK, China, Japan
  • Pathways of dispersal for cholera and solution tools (PODCAST)
    Marie-Fanny Racault, Plymouth Marine Laboratory
    Countries: UK, Japan, India

For full details of these projects, visit NERC's Grants on the Web.