press release
Published: 02 February 2022

University of Surrey to play vital role in meeting UK’s net-zero goals

The UK’s journey to net-zero by 2050 is set to be bolstered by the social sciences, thanks to a major new investment from the Economic and Social Research Council.

The ESRC has invested £6.25 million in an environmental leadership team that will ensure the UK’s world-leading social science expertise plays a central role in interdisciplinary environmental science research. 

Together, the new team 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) group will establish an interdisciplinary environmental social science leadership team in the UK. Its aim is to coordinate and champion environmental social science research, to build capacity and promote and enhance the value of environmental social science in research and practice. 

The five-year program of work will be led by Professor Patrick Devine-Wright (University of Exeter) as director and Professor Birgitta Gatersleben (University of Surrey) as co-director with Co-investgator’s (COI’s) from Bath, Sussex, Leeds and the NESRN (Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, NatureScot, Natural England, Environment Agency and Forest Research) and an extensive partner network including, amongst others, the Universities of Belfast, Cardiff and Manchester, the Tyndall centre, National Trust and local and national governments.

Birgitta Gatersleben, Professor of Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey and Co-Director of ACCESS, said:

“This is a very exciting opportunity. The social sciences have so much to contribute to understanding and addressing the environmental issues we face. ACCESS will bring together and champion existing knowledge and skills across the UK and beyond. We will work closely with key stakeholders to help shape decision making, future research agendas, and government policy.  

“We will build the capacity and knowledge of academics and practitioners, empower them to work in interdisciplinary and applied settings and advance their mutual understandings for managing and tackling global environmental challenges.”

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