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  • Nikki Latham

Social Science Plays It Part In Making UK's Net Zero Goals

The UK's journey to net zero by 2050 has been supported by the social sciences, thanks to a major new investment from ESRC. The ESRC is the Economic & Social Research Council. The investment of £6.25 million will ensure the UK's world-leading social science expertise plays a central role in the interdisciplinary environmental science research.
The collaborative climate and environment social science programme, headed by Professor Patrick Devine-Wright of the University of Exeter, will be led by the University of Exeter and Professor Birgitta Gatersleben at the University of Surrey as bar of a core team that includes the universities of Bath, Leeds and Sussex and the National Environment Social Research Network (Natural Resources Wales, NatureScot, Natural England, Environment Agency and Forest Research). There are other programme partners across other universities, devolved governments, energy and water companies, local councils, science centres and the National Trust.

The new team brings together world-leading social scientists and major national and local organisations together to highlight the skills and insights of social scientists when it comes to research, policy-making and action. Their aim is to foster new ideas and solutions based on evidence, data and expertise to support policy and decision makers across the UK.
Together they will ensure the UK leads the world in understanding how to achieve the human and institutional change needed to deliver net zero and other critical environmental, biodiversity and sustainability goals. The Advancing Capacity for Climate and Environment Social Science (ACCESS) five-year programme will: map; assess and learn from 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.
The UK Climate Change Committee's 2021 progress report to Parliament was clear that actions from businesses, consumers, workers, households and citizens are vital to reach the net zero target.
ESRC's Interim Executive Chair, Professor Alison Park, said: "The UK government has set a national target of carbon neutral by 2050, and an interim target to cut emissions by 78% by 2035. Tackling the climate and ecological crisis requires social science research insight, leadership and coordination across disciplines to catalyse the change required."
Professor Park continues: " 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."

The ESRC investment started this month and will run for five years.
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