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Queen’s academic joins £3.5m research network to support UK transition to a low-carbon economy

A Queen’s University Belfast researcher is part of a new Place-based Climate Action Network (P-CAN), which will help the local delivery of the UK’s climate change objectives.

Professor John Barry, Professor of Green Political Economy at the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen’s is part of the initiative which was launched today (31 January) by Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry.

It is a network of new and extended city climate commissions in Edinburgh, Belfast and Leeds. The project aims to help the UK meet the requirements of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change and the UK Climate Change Act by building local capacities and stimulating the flow of green finance into cities across the UK.

P-CAN will help the local delivery of the UK's climate change objectives by supporting action in UK cities through a partnership made up of the private, public and third sectors.

Professor Barry said: “The potential impact of a climate and energy transition commission for Belfast and Northern Ireland is huge. Northern Ireland has the highest rates of fuel poverty in the UK in large part because of its over-dependence on fossil fuels.

“A climate and energy transition partnership for Belfast aligns the post-conflict social and economic development of the city, with the post-carbon demands of the challenge and opportunity of responding to our climate emergency.”

P-CAN was announced at a national green finance conference on ‘Investing in Local Energy’ in Leeds. Claire Perry MP, Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, delivered the keynote address at the conference, which was organised by UK100 and Leeds Climate Commission, together with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is investing £3.5 million in P-CAN over the course of five years. It will be hosted by the London School of Economics and Political Science, the University of Leeds, the University of Edinburgh and Queen’s University Belfast. It will seek to increase engagement between university researchers and the public, private and third sectors in tackling climate change.

P-CAN will help to accelerate and sustain the transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient society through the creation of local climate commissions, following the Leeds model developed in 2017, as well as other broader measures focused on increasing investment in low-carbon, climate-resilient development.

There is a pressing need for cities and towns across the UK to take action on climate change, and a major opportunity for them to do so in ways that also help them deliver on their economic and social ambitions.

But to take these opportunities cities and towns need to build their capacities for action, and they need to find new ways of developing investable projects and programmes and accessing investment. P-CAN will do exactly these things.

Another key dimension for P-CAN will be to explore how to ensure that any low-carbon energy transition is a ‘just transition’ so that nobody and nowhere is left behind in the transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy.

Professor Sam Fankhauser, Director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and Co-Director of the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP) at the London School of Economics and Political Science, will be the principal Investigator for the project. He said: “The aim of the new network is to inform and promote climate change action at the local level. I look forward to working with researchers, businesses, local communities and policy-makers to meet the UK’s climate change objectives."

The P-CAN project will take forward and extend a model of partnership working with the public, private and third sectors which has been developed in Leeds by Professor Andy Gouldson. Professor Gouldson, Deputy Director of CCCEP and a speaker at the Leeds conference, has conducted extensive research on the economics of low-carbon cities, and has demonstrated huge opportunities for cutting energy bills and reducing emissions in cities.

Professor Gouldson said: “There is a massive opportunity for climate action in the UK’s cities and towns. But we need to build capacities to take these opportunities by bringing different actors together and by linking innovative projects and programmes to new sources of finance. All of the evidence shows that doing this will help cities and towns to contribute more to the climate challenge, but that it can also help to deliver a wide range of other social and economic benefits.”

P-CAN will also operate a Flexible Fund that will commission between 20 and 30 small grants for the wider community of climate and energy researchers practitioners to explore innovative approaches. P-CAN will seek to influence decisions on climate change and the low-carbon energy transition at a local and national level while feeding into policies such as the Government’s Industrial Strategy and UK Clean Growth Strategy.

Professor Simon Kelley, Head of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said: “Edinburgh City Council is developing its longer term vision for a vibrant, green and prosperous city through its City Vision 2050. The Climate and Energy Commission created through this project will help the city make those plans real – engaging people across Edinburgh in delivering a fair and equitable transformation in our energy and finances to meet the challenge of climate change. The University, through our climate impact hub the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, is looking forward to working with government, business and the third sector to accelerate our transition to a thriving low carbon future.”

Jeremy Neathey, Deputy Director for Research and International at ESRC said: “This is a really exciting project, bringing together interdisciplinary research and members of industry, to tackle an issue of the utmost importance."


Professor John Barry
Professor John Barry
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