29 Sep 2021

New research to ensure ‘just’ transition to net zero for poorest families and communities 

The Institute for Community Studies is embarking on a landmark research project, exploring how the UK’s transition to ‘net zero’ will affect families and communities.

The new project, which is funded by the Nuffield Foundation, seeks to help level the playing field as the UK moves towards a net zero (or ‘carbon neutral’) society by 2050.

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The research will identify how to mitigate the negative impacts this transition could have on the poorest 20% of families and communities, if transition strategies do not take into account the specific needs of those communities.   Vulnerable groups may include families living on a low income, in poor housing, or with a lack of access to public services, as well as some communities, with particular concern for post-industrial cities, and areas including Leeds, Newcastle, and the Welsh Valleys.  

Head of the Institute for Community Studies, Emily Morrison, says: “We know that, all too often, societal transition leaves behind the poorest families and communities in ways that are avoidable if researchers can work collaboratively with leaders, with a stake in all parts of the transition strategy”.  

Emily continues: “Achieving the social, economic, technological and behavioural shift that needs to happen to meet net zero targets requires researchers, innovators and policymakers to work with and listen to the communities it will most affect. We are thrilled that the Nuffield Foundation has chosen to fund this inclusive research.”  

The research will result in an actionable framework, aimed at those leading transition strategies in national and local government, and in the energy and social sectors. This framework will enable users to assess the impact the UK’s transition to net zero could have on families and local communities, helping them plan for a ‘just’ transition to net zero - one that fights disadvantage, reduces inequalities and ensures everyone benefits from the UK’s success in fighting climate change. 

Alex Beer is the Welfare Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation. She says "This important research will provide timely insights into the costs and benefits of the transition to a net zero economy and how these can be shared more fairly across the UK population.” 

She continues: “By engaging with communities, researchers and policymakers, the research team will help to identify risks and ensure that the transition to a net zero will improve people's lives as well as contributing to the fight against climate change."  

The Institute for Community Studies and the Nuffield Foundation will collaborate with researchers from The University of York, University of Leeds and Trinity College Dublin on the project, which will be completed in December 2022. 

For more information, please contact Emily Morrison on emily.morrison@icstudies.org.uk. 

To see more about our latest work on climate change, check out the Climate Challenge Cup - a new international competition to elevate and help scale transformative civic research partnerships between research bodies, civic organisations and local communities to combat climate change.