Memorandum submitted by Research Councils
1. Research Councils UK (RCUK) is a strategic
partnership that champions the research supported by the seven
UK Research Councils. Through RCUK the Research Councils together
with the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) are creating
a common framework for research, training and knowledge transfer.
Further details are available at www.rcuk.ac.uk.
2. This memorandum is submitted by Research
Councils UK on behalf of four of the Research Councils, and represents
our independent views. It does not include or necessarily reflect
the views of the Office of Science and Technology (OST). RCUK
welcomes the opportunity to respond to this inquiry from the House
of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.
3. This memorandum provides evidence from
RCUK relevant to the terms of reference of the inquiry, in addition
to supplementary background material from the following Research
|Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
|Council for the Central Laboratories of the Research Councils (CCLRC)
|Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
|Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
4. RCUK notes that the Committee intends to focus among
other things on Defra's review of the UK Climate Change programme,
and on policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Defra's
recent publication "Scientific and technical aspects of climate
change, including impacts and adaptation and associated costs"
demonstrates the urgent need for the Government to adopt and promote
national and international policies that will effectively combat
climate change. The Defra publication also highlights the need
for more scientific study to improve estimates of likely changes
and to support the development of alternative, eg low-carbon,
5. RCUK welcomes the fact that the Government recognises
the challenge of climate change and the importance of technological
innovation to reduce its severity and to adapt to new climatic
extremes. Climate change is a particularly strong driver of innovative
research and development in renewable-energy technologies, energy
efficiency and options such as the hydrogen economy and carbon
sequestration. There is a clear need for continued Government
support for research in these areas.
6. The Research Councils support many initiatives and
projects addressing both the study of climate change and the technology
and behaviour required to combat and adapt to it. Some of these
initiatives are described below.
7. Three Research Councils (EPSRC, ESRC (Economic and
Social Research Council) and NERC) fund, and another (CCLRC) participates
in, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
This UK centre for trans-disciplinary research on climate change
focuses among other things on policy development. The Tyndall
Centre is responding separately to this inquiry to provide policy
suggestions addressing issues such as the predicted growth in
air traffic and the need to adopt more energy-efficient building
8. Another of the most significant Research Council initiatives
relevant to climate change is the "Towards a Sustainable
Energy Economy Programme"
(TSEC) funded by the EPSRC, ESRC and NERC, with the participation
of the BBSRC, CCLRC, DTI, Defra, the Carbon Trust and others.
The TSEC programme is interdisciplinary and supports a whole-systems
integrated approach to energy research, including research into
renewables, carbon management and keeping the nuclear option open.
9. The TSEC programme builds on another cross-Council
programme known as SUPERGEN (Sustainable Power Generation and
Supply). This was
initiated by EPSRC in 2003 with an anticipated investment of £25
million over five years, with the aim of establishing research
consortia to tackle key challenges in improving the sustainability
of the power supply industry. The activities have been expanded
into the social, environmental and life sciences, and the programme
is now a collaborative activity supported also by BBSRC, ESRC
and NERC. The programme has initially funded research into biomass,
wave and tidal power, hydrogen generation and storage, and future
10. Through the TSEC programme the Research Councils
have set up the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).
The UKERC will bring coherence to the diverse range of UK energy
research activities through the establishment of a National Energy
Research Network. It will support a multi-disciplinary approach
to research in the area of sustainable energy, contributing to
the development of alternative, low-carbon technologies.
11. Other relevant Research Council programmes and projects
are detailed in Annexes 1-4. Data from these and from the programmes
described above will help inform Defra's Review of the Climate
Change Programme, as well as policy development generally, a process
which obviously requires ongoing feedback from the research community.
8 October 2004