Select Committee on Economic Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum from Research Councils UK (RCUK)


  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

  2.  This memorandum is submitted by Research Councils UK on behalf of two of the Research Councils, drawing on inputs from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 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 Lords Economic Affairs Committee.


  3.  The Research Councils recognise the importance of inter-disciplinary research on climate change and the crucial role of research on the economic dimensions for under-pinning and informing future public policy debates. RCUK believes that high quality, independent research on the economics of climate change, alongside research into other aspects of climate change research in the physical, engineering, natural and medical sciences, as well as other areas of social science outside economics, is indispensable to allow an integrated assessment of the causes and impacts of climate change and potential responses to it.

  4.  The Research Councils support a diverse range of research into the economics of climate change, particularly in terms of developing integrated models of the economic, social and environmental impacts of climate change and of future technological change, policy options and scenarios.

  5.  The Tyndall Centre, established in 2000 with £10 million of funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), EPSRC and ESRC brings together scientists, economists, engineers and social scientists, who together are working to develop sustainable responses to climate change through independent inter-disciplinary research and dialogue on both a national and international level—not just within the research community, but also with business leaders, policy advisors, the media and the public in general. The Tyndall Centre is continuing to take a lead role in developing a next generation Community Integrated Assessment System (CIAS) which comprises a linked Community Integrated Assessment Model (CIAMn) and a novel interactive stakeholder process. The CIAMn prototype links computer modules of the global climate system, the global economy, climate impacts, and other key factors, from a contributing network of institutions. The complete community-owned CIAMn model will harness prime international expertise in integrated assessment of climate change to inform policy makers, NGOs, industry, and local stakeholders in Europe and beyond. The Tyndall Centre has submitted separate detailed written evidence to this Inquiry.

  6.  "Energy Systems and Modelling" is one of the key themes of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), part of the Towards a Sustainable Energy Economy (TSEC) Programme funded by the EPSRC, NERC and ESRC, in collaboration with the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC) and Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Council (CCLRC). Work under this theme will seek to integrate previous top-down energy modelling approaches (represented by the work of Cambridge University's Department of Applied Economics, which builds in part on previous work funded in the 1990s under the ESRC's Global Environmental Change Programme) and bottom-up approaches (eg the work of Future Energy Solutions and Imperial College for DTI using the MARKAL model) to develop whole-systems energy-environment-engineering-economy ("E4") modelling. This work will draw closely on research under UKERC's demand reduction, future sources of energy, infrastructure and supply and environmental sustainability themes and is being conducted in close collaboration with the Tyndall Centre; a national energy modelling network is also being created. The aim is to develop a comprehensive energy modelling capability for the UK, comprising linked top-down models at the global, regional, national and sub-national levels, interfacing with the range of bottom-up models that cover the main energy demand areas, carbon emissions, the main energy supply technologies and carbon management. The Co-Director responsible for this theme, The Policy Studies Institute has also separately submitted written evidence to this Inquiry. Further work on energy markets and the economics of energy is currently under consideration as a part of the TSEC Programme's "Managing Uncertainties" Theme.

  7.  The ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment (CSERGE) (University of East Anglia) has a long track record of pioneering environmental economics research, including research on the economics of climate change. CSERGE uses social science analysis as a link between existing scientific knowledge and policy guidance, with the aim of mitigating environmental problems in both developed and developing economies. Current themes include multi-level governance and environmental policy integration; social capital, equity and justice; and innovation in decision-support tools and methods and environmental valuation. CSERGE has also submitted evidence to the Inquiry.

  8.  The £3.2 million initiative "Building Knowledge for a Changing Climate" (BKCC) is a partnership between EPSRC and UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP), designed specifically to improve understanding of the multidisciplinary research challenges raised by the necessity to adapt UK buildings and infrastructure to changing climate patterns. BKCC focuses on research solutions as part of adaptation strategies for the built environment, while acknowledging that such adaptation strategies need to be consistent with UK strategies for economic, social and environmental sustainability. Each of the projects involves close collaborations between research groups and users in the public and private sectors, including companies in the construction, transport, financial services sectors and bodies such as English Heritage, The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and The National Trust. The users provide a vital function in the projects, by steering them closely to ensure that they produce research outputs that are useful in their decision-making processes. Users are also providing input data for the research projects. These close collaborations are a key defining element of the BKCC portfolio that covers:

    —    Climate Change Risk Assessment: New Impact and Uncertainty Methods;

    —    Construction of climate scenarios for the built environment, transport and utilities;

    —    Adaptation of Historic Environments to Moisture-Related Climate Change;

    —    Adaptable Urban Drainage—Addressing Change in Intensity, Occurrence and Uncertainty of Stormwater;

    —    Climate Change Impacts assessment on the Electricity Supply Industry and Utilities;

    —    Adaptation Strategies for Climate Change in the Urban Environment;

    —    Biological and Engineering Impacts of Climate Change on Slopes;

    —    Economic and Social Information for Examining the Effects of Climate Change;

    —    Impact of Climate Change on UK Air Transport.

  9.  Innovative research at the University of Stirling, funded by ESRC, has recently combined a number of different models (including models of climate change, crop systems and farmer decision-making) to estimate the impacts of predicted climate change on crop yields, land use, farm incomes and farmland biodiversity for Scotland, and has given explicit consideration to how these impacts may vary regionally. The results of this research suggested that climate change is likely to have a positive impact on Scottish agriculture. Such work illustrates the complexity and variability in the likely impacts of climate change for different regions, economic sectors and groups in societies over different periods in time and the crucial role that adaptive capacity and response strategies play in affecting these impacts.


What has been the approach within the IPCC to the economic aspects of climate change, and how satisfactory has it been?

  10.  UK economists have played a leading role in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) process. For example, contributions from economists at CSERGE to the IPCC process include the chapter from CSERGE's Professor David Pearce OBE (with Samuel Fankhauser) on the monetary value of global damages from climate change in the 1996 IPCC Second Assessment Report, the work of Professor Kerry Turner CBE as lead author with the IPCC Working Group II and Dr Neil Adger's current role as Convening Lead Author for the Fourth Assessment Report on adaptation to climate change. Scientists from a number of NERC's Research and Collaborative Centres contributed as authors or reviewers to the IPCC Third Assessment Report and are contributing to the Fourth Assessment Report.

Is there sufficient collaboration between scientific and economic research?

  11.  The Research Councils recognise the need for such collaboration and are working closely together to support inter-disciplinary research of this kind. The work of the Tyndall Centre and the UK Energy Research Centre mentioned above provides examples of the substantial inter-disciplinary collaboration which is now occurring between scientists and economists in providing integrated "whole-systems" assessments of climate change issues. Such work is placing the UK at the forefront of international developments in inter-disciplinary climate change research.

1 March 2005

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