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Climate change, sustainability and COP26

  • We fund research into sustainability and solutions across areas as diverse as land use, transport, the economy, housing, food, water and energy.
  • Our researchers are investigating the social and economic drivers and impacts of climate change, the risks associated with it, and the benefits and opportunities in addressing it.
  • See below for the events and activities throughout November linked to COP26

Climate Change is one of the most pressing global challenges facing society today, with the potential to cause far-reaching disruption to communities and the economy here in the UK and worldwide. We’re investing in research to understand how individual, cultural, political and corporate actions can contribute to or mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change, generating evidence to support sustainable and equitable societies, structures and systems for the future.

Why do we need economic and social science research into climate change?

As one of the 195 countries to sign the Paris Agreement, the UK is committed to tackling the challenge of climate change. We have also committed to achieving the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, aiming to deliver a more sustainable and fair future for all, and are the first major economy to pass a law to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Economic and social science research has a vital role to play in helping us meet these ambitious targets, by enabling us to fully grasp the issues at stake, develop effective solutions for mitigating and adapting to climate change, inform better choices, and deliver on our sustainability goals.

Climate change is one our key research priorities, building on years of previous investment totalling more than £400 million. Our current portfolio aims to understand how people and societies can survive and thrive within our planetary boundaries, focusing on climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience to environmental changes and hazards.

Our researchers are investigating the social and economic drivers and impacts of climate change, the risks associated with it, and the benefits and opportunities in addressing it. And we fund research into sustainability and solutions across areas as diverse as land use, transport, the economy, housing, food, water and energy.

Explore what our researchers are saying in our ESRC Festival of Social Science and at UKRI’s COP26 portal.

Learn more about the research we fund.

ESRC and the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26)

Below is a list of activities you can join or watch to learn more about ESRC’s role in the COP 26 conference

  • 2021 Festival of Social Science – over 100 free public events in November showcasing social science research on the environment theme Festival of Social Science
  • Strategies for net zero Climate Exp0 – Strategies for net zero with COP26 Fellows. Listen back to the panel recording here
  • ESRC and EPSRC have awarded four COP26 Fellowships to engage with the international climate negotiations in the run up to COP26:
    • YES TO Net Zero (Youth, Education, Skills and Training to Operationalise Net Zero) - Harriet Thew (University of Leeds)
    • From “Groundswell” to “All of Society”: How local governments, business, and civil society can contribute to the implementation phase of the Paris Agreement - Thomas Hale (University of Oxford)
    • Making money go further: Scaling climate finance through local delivery - Jessica Omukuti (University of York)
    • ALIGN: ALigning Impacts for Getting to Net-zero - Rebecca Ford (University of Strathclyde)
      See the wide range of outputs (presentations, papers, blogs, etc) from the Fellows here.
  • Behaviour change for reaching net zero: what’s the cost? Webinar with Professor Alison Park, Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh and Professor Paul Johnson. Listen back to the recording available here.
  • Climate adaptation and resilience series focussing on showcasing collaborative, locally led and globally relevant research.. Further information on the events held and outputs from the series can be found here.
  • COP26 Green Zone Programme of events. A few ESRC highlights included in the programme:
    • Catalysing our Net Zero Future: working with people to take action on climate change (1 Nov) – Led by Centre for Climate and Social Transformation (CAST) and Climate Outreach
    • Urban informality and inequality – a call for global climate justice (2 Nov) Led by the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) in collaboration with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Cities Alliance
    • Youth are Leading: The Ripple Effect (8 Nov) – Led by Place-Based Climate Action Network (P-CAN)
    • Fostering agricultural innovation for people, nature and climate in Africa as a Blue Zone hybrid event on the 9th November, co-hosted with GSMA, World Bank, UKRI, Shell Foundation via the Resilient Hub. Showcasing the Food Systems challenge. Sign up for the event on the Resilience Hub here.
    • Sustainable trade: Global Challenges Research Fund  (GCRF) Trade Hub and Chatham House hybrid blue zone event on 6 November.
    • Two events led by GCRF PEAK Urban, in collaboration with World Resources Institute, Google, and Climate Sense will take place. Register for these Resilience Hub events here.
  • UKRI Podcast ‘Emissions: Impossible?’ on ‘What does a Net Zero economy really look like?’, featuring ESRC funded programmes. Emissions: Impossible? (buzzsprout.com)
  • Green Thinking Podcasts BBC Radio 3 - Free Thinking, Green Thinking

ESRC research in the UKRI Virtual Platform

Discover the difference social science is making