Net Zero Policy Programme

The research and activities under this programme aim to draw on learnings from the Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts disciplines to develop relevant and timely UK policy insights that consider the role of people, communities and institutions in the transition to net zero.
Start date
Programme status

People sit at the centre of many of the policies and actions under consideration as part of the transition to net zero. A British Academy research scheme, Shared Understandings of a Sustainable Future highlighted the lack of sufficient understanding of the role of people, limitations in how people are engaged and gaps in systems that will be needed to achieve the ambitious targets associated with the transition.

Building on this, the British Academy’s policy work on net zero in the UK is exploring the role of people in the transition and the role of communities and institutions at different levels in facilitating this process. It uses a systems perspective to understand how policies across different sectors and across all levels of society consider the perceptions, motivations, and priorities of people and their communities. The programme aims to tackle this challenge and develop relevant and timely insights to inform UK policy on the topic.

Research projects and outputs

Our initial research considered how can collaboration across sectors (public, third sector, business and local communities), foster shared commitments to goals, values and programmes to deliver net zero as part of a sustainable future? Researchers worked through a wide range of methods, engaging diverse people and places. It indicated a range of cross-cutting elements to consider: the importance of place (see below); the relationships between people, communities, institutions, and different modes of governance; the connections between different levels of governance; methods of engagement and communication; questions of inclusion and values; economic and financial considerations; and the types of skills and knowledge needed.

The nine research projects commissioned are listed below, each with its findings summarised in a policy summary. The abstracts of each project are also available. A new round of research based on these findings will be commissioned in 2023.

Communities of Creative Survival: Live Simulation to Generate Grassroots Insight for Net-Zero Policy 

Dr Danielle Barrios-O'Neill

Royal College of Art

Policy Summary

Developing a Grassroots Sustainable Futures Platform: Collective Participation in a Community-Based Cultural Organisation 

Dr Lee Barron

Northumbria University

Policy Summary

The Great Community Climate Change Experiment: Using children from the community to promote meaningful sustainable actions

Professor Geoff Beattie

Edge Hill University

Attitudes Towards Climate Action 

Professor Sir Timothy Besley FBA  

London School of Economics and Political Science

Policy Summary

Collaborative Voices: drawing on cross-sector expertise in building community capacity and sustaining partnerships towards net-zero sustainability futures

Dr Jaya Gajparia

London South Bank University

Policy Summary

Co-designing sustainable food futures: using climate assemblies to build shared agri-food visions for net-zero

Professor Damian Maye

University of Gloucestershire

Policy Summary

Project output microsite

Community-Led Television, Local Voice and Climate Action

Dr Elke Weissmann

Edge Hill University

Policy Summary

Shifting the Narrative: Exploring the role of arts interventions in supporting communities in working across sectors to achieve place-based climate action 

Dr Alette Willis

University of Edinburgh

Policy Summary

Podcast - The power of traditional storytelling to shift our community narratives

Localising and decentralising goal-based governance for sustainability in England

Professor Jane Wills FBA

University of Exeter

Policy Summary

Contact us

If you require further information on this scheme or would like to engage with us, please contact Chizitera Pennington on [email protected] or Henry Richards on [email protected].

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