As Climate Outreach celebrates its 15th anniversary, we’re excited to announce our central role in a major new £5 million research centre, led by Cardiff University and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, which will be the UK hub for the social science of climate change.
CAST – the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations – will focus on the crucial role of people at the heart of the transformations needed to bring about a low-carbon, sustainable society.
The Centre will focus on four challenging areas of everyday life that are critical for making progress on carbon emissions, but which have proven stubbornly resistant to change: the food we eat; the way we travel; the way we heat and cool our homes and buildings; and the consumption of high-carbon goods and physical products.
The Centre will mark a step-change in the way that sustainable behaviours, lifestyles and practices are studied by social scientists.
As the Centre Director, Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh puts it: “CAST recognises that climate change is an emergency that requires action on a far greater scale than has been seen so far. We will address the fundamental question of how we can live differently and better, in ways that meet the need for these systemic, deep and rapid emission reductions.”
Climate Outreach is one of 5 core partners of the Centre
Climate Outreach is a core partner of the CAST Centre, alongside Cardiff, Manchester, York and East Anglia Universities.
Our role in CAST will involve working closely with policy makers (including the Scottish Government, BEIS and Greater Manchester Combined Authority), industry partners such as Wates Group, internationally renowned science bodies like the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and leading climate change charities such as 10:10 to ensure the research is embedded in, and directly informs, the practical strategies of a range of partners.
The Centre is closely aligned with the way we see the world, and the work we do
We released a report on this very same theme of lifestyles and behaviour change, “Mainstreaming low-carbon lifestyles”, in collaboration with the Low Carbon Lifestyles & Behaviour Spillover (CASPI) programme at Cardiff University.
The report explores how to move beyond small-scale and piecemeal approaches to behaviour change. It dives into the research and provides practical recommendations for the wide range of individuals and organisations involved in influencing sustainable behaviours including policymakers, local authorities, campaigners, and those leading community-level initiatives.
New Centre will have a strong collaborative and practical focus
Working closely with members of the public to develop inspiring yet workable visions of a low-carbon future, the CAST Centre aims to develop responses to climate change that emphasise parallel benefits in other areas of life: for example, through promoting wellbeing and cleaner air by moving away from a reliance on cars.
Research has shown that changes to people’s diets and food production could achieve large-scale reductions in emissions as well as significant health benefits, particularly through reducing consumption of meat and dairy. But while there are signs of change in people’s choices around meat-eating, it will take sustained and intelligent approaches to move forwards in ways that are not dismissed by the wider public or seen as unrealistic by policy-makers.
Connecting with a diverse range of public values will be central to the CAST Centre research and outreach. At a crucial time for public engagement with climate policy (with French fuel strikes showing that opposition can quickly accelerate if policies are not in tune with public values), the CAST Centre will establish a citizen’s assembly and a young people’s panel to ensure key public concerns shape its work.
“The growing school strikes movement in the UK and across the world show that young people are deeply concerned about lack of action on climate change and the impacts they will face in their own lives. We will listen carefully to their views and help convey these to policy-makers, together with concrete recommendations for change,” said Professor Whitmarsh.
At Climate Outreach we’re strong advocates of the need to put people front-and-centre in climate policy, and the importance of climate conversations for building public engagement.
So the words of the Executive Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council, Professor Jennifer Rubin, are an extremely positive sign of what the CAST Centre hopes to achieve: “This is an important Centre to be funding, focused on the underlying social science needed to combat climate change and its effects. To tackle climate change, we need better understanding of the role of human behaviour and choices, including around consumption, travel, and how we manage our living and working environments. This centre will work to ensure people are central to the changes needed, and that the work of the centre clearly informs policy and practice.”
We can’t wait to get started, on May 1st, on this ambitious and practically-focused new research programme, and play our part in catalysing the social transformation towards sustainability in the UK.