New £5 million climate change social science research centre

The University of East Anglia (UEA) is a founding partner in a new £5 million research centre that will explore how we as a society can live differently to achieve the rapid and far-reaching emissions cuts required to address climate change.

Led by Cardiff University, the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST) is a collaboration between UEA, Manchester and York Universities, and charity Climate Outreach. It will work closely with industry, local and national governments, and charities to tackle climate change.

The centre is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and will establish a programme of social science research that places people at the heart of the transformations needed to bring about a more sustainable, very low-carbon society. The funding secured will enable a long-term programme of research lasting up to 15 years, bringing together global research expertise from across the UK and internationally.

It will focus on four challenging areas of everyday life that contribute substantially to climate change, but which have proven stubbornly resistant to change: the consumption of goods and physical products; food and diet; travel; and heating/cooling in buildings.

The UEA team is drawn from its Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, the School of Environmental Sciences and the Norwich Business School. Led by Prof Andy Jordan, its work will examine how politicians, businesses and the public can lead the necessary transformations by mobilising the science, political and practice communities across society.

Prof Jordan said: “So far, emission cuts have mostly been achieved by decarbonising electricity supply. But if we’re going to tackle demand, and particularly in high-impact but challenging areas like food, transport, heating, and material consumption, we can’t do this by technological change alone. We can only do this by transforming the way we live our lives, challenging norms, and reconfiguring organisations and cities.”


#CardiffUni has been selected to host a @ESRC £5 million research centre to explore how we can live differently to achieve the rapid emissions cuts required to address #climatechange. Prof Lorraine Whitmarsh @PsychCardiffUni talks about the Centre’s research.

— Cardiff University (@cardiffuni) March 21, 2019



CAST will have a strong practical focus, and will experiment with approaches to bringing about social change at all levels of society, applying behaviour change techniques designed to break people’s habits, for example, such as encouraging more active travel or more agile work arrangements.

Working with charities and businesses Prof Olga Tregaskis, of UEA’s Norwich Business School and Wellbeing Research Group, will examine organisational innovations to create new ways of ways of working and organisational cultures that deliver more sustainable workplace practices.

Centre director Prof Lorraine Whitmarsh, from Cardiff University, said: “While there is now international momentum on action to tackle climate change, it is clear that critical targets, such as keeping global temperature rise to well within 2 °C relative to pre-industrial levels, will be missed without fundamental transformations across all parts of society.”

Working closely with members of the public to develop inspiring yet workable visions of a low-carbon future, CAST aims to develop responses to climate change that emphasise associated benefits in other areas of life: for example, through promoting health and wellbeing and cleaner air by moving away from a heavy reliance on cars.

Researchers will establish a citizen’s assembly and young people’s panel to ensure key public concerns are a central part of the Centre. They will also set out to learn lessons from previous social transformations. For example, the public health success of reducing smoking rates shows that changing regulations and incentives, along with support from health practitioners, can transform people’s behaviour.

The researchers will work with local governments to develop and apply approaches designed to bring down emissions, and better engage the public in tackling climate change. They will also work with politicians and policy-makers at a national level in the UK and internationally to co-produce research findings that lead to real change.

Prof Jennifer Rubin, executive chair of the Economic and Social Research Council, said: “This is a really important Centre to be funding because of its strong focus on developing and testing effective approaches to communicating climate change and its effects. Despite the urgent need to tackle climate change, researchers know that people rarely talk about it on a day-to-day basis – this means opportunities for meaningful dialogue and practical responses relevant to people’s everyday lives are missed.

“This Centre will work across all levels of society with multiple partners and ensure people are central to the changes needed which will mean greater fairness as well as identifying ways forward that can be realistically achieved.”



Notes for editors

  1. For further information and to speak with Prof Andy Jordan contact the UEA Communications Office on +44 (0)1603 593496/ co************@ue*.uk
  2. The Centre has been funded for an initial five years. Further funding beyond 2024 will be subject to a later decision by the ESRC.
  3. The Centre will formally start on 1st May 2019. There will be an announcement of the Centre’s funding award by Wales’ First Minister, Mark Drakeford, on 21st March as part of an event in Cardiff to launch the Welsh Government’s Low Carbon Delivery Plan.
  4. The Centre has partnered with academics in China, Brazil and Sweden to share findings and ideas as to how to push for international progress on addressing climate change.
  5. The University of East Anglia (UEA) is a UK Top 15 university. Known for its world-leading research and outstanding student experience, it was awarded Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework. UEA is a leading member of Norwich Research Park, one of Europe’s biggest concentrations of researchers in the fields of environment, health and plant science. It is ranked in the Top 200 of the world’s universities and is in the Top 50 for research citations.
  6. Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. The 2014 Research Excellence Framework ranked the University 5th in the UK for research excellence.

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