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UK Committee on Climate Change

2 June 2015

Committee on Climate Change

Research led by Professor Nick Pidgeon from Cardiff School of Psychology and Sustainable Places affiliate led to the creation of the UK government's Committee on Climate Change.

Climate change is arguably the biggest challenge facing our planet. Mitigating its effects will require widespread co-op­eration across nations, but each country individually also needs to get its own house in order. Prompted by research led by Cardiff School of Psychology and a Sustainable Places affiliate, the UK government set up the Committee on Climate Change in 2008.

Climate targets have to be long term, but political cycles are short. Research led by Professor Nick Pidgeon, Professor of Environmental Psychology, Director of the Understanding Risk Research Group, and Sustainable Places affiliate, revealed a 'governance trap' hindering decisive long-term action by the UK government on climate change. Professor Nick Pidgeon co-authored a Parliamentary Research Report that identified a solution to this problem - the creation of an independent expert committee to advise the government on long-term climate change targets and to evaluate progress. This recommendation was enshrined in the 2008 Climate Change Act, which formalised the scope and composition of the UK Committee on Climate Change. Since its inception the committee has shaped the future energy strategy of the UK and devolved administrations and helped to introduce binding targets to reduce UK carbon emissions. Its initial recommendation, swiftly enshrined into legislation in 2008, was that UK carbon emissions be cut by 80% by 2050. Already, as a consequence of the UK Committee on Climate Change, the gov­ernment is providing extra funds for developing renewable and other low-carbon energy sources and green technologies such as electric vehicles.

This case study was selected by the Nature Publishing Group from a shortlist provided by HEFCE to demonstrate the impact of work done by researchers at high-performing universities across the UK.

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