Video transcript - Low-carbon living
ESRC logo and series title: Planet and people - social sciences and the environment
Title: Low-carbon living
Footage: Industrial night skylines
Reducing carbon emissions is a key part of tackling climate change. Social sciences have explored different options for reducing the carbon footprint - such as emissions trading systems and carbon credits, the impact of international regulations, the potential for green innovation, or the 'greening' of current services and products.
The 'Economics of low-carbon cities' project shows how large-scale investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy for households, buildings, industry and transport can give economic benefits as well as rapid cuts in the carbon emissions of cities.
Professor Andy Gouldson, University of Leeds, Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy:
There's a very strong economic case for making these major investments, but there are also many social and economic benefits that could come from making those investments. So those would include employment generation from the low-carbon goods and services sector, they would include protecting, enhancing competitiveness of industry more broadly, stimulating the economy, and social benefits in terms of reduced fuel poverty, improved public health and those sorts of things. So we find that there's a compelling economic case and a compelling social case more broadly for decarbonising cities in a very intensive way.
To do that, though, you need political buy-in. You need support for this from policymakers, from political leaders, from business leaders, from communities and from households, and their buy-in is absolutely crucial in this process. Without that, these investments and these economic returns won't be realised. So you really need an interdisciplinary approach which blends the economics with wider insights from the social sciences.
Cities are going to be a really key part of a global response to climate change. More than half of people live there, more than half of the economic activity happens there, so the way that they respond determines to a large extent the way that the world responds to climate change. They're also really important, because if global negotiations on climate change are stalled or are slow, if national governments are reluctant to adopt ambitious carbon reduction plans because of economic concerns for example, then we need somewhere where there's rapid progress going to be made, and cities can be that place - particularly if they realise they can stimulate their economies and strengthen their communities at the same time as decarbonising.
So our work is on the economics of low-carbon cities. We recognise of course that there are many other factors other than economics which drive behaviour, especially in the low-carbon economy. These relate to the social perceptions, to political support and political opportunities in this area, to the institutional structures and so on. All of those are critically important and they will determine how we decarbonise, and the extent and speed of decarbonisation too.
However, our focus on economics is important because at the moment the economy is suffering in many contexts, and we see this as a main way of stimulating the economy, of creating jobs and of responding to the recession in some way. So it's important economically - but in terms of climate change all the signs tells us we have to do something quickly, dramatically within the next ten years on climate change, and we see this as a prime opportunity to do that.
End credits with ESRC logo:
The Economics of Low Carbon Cities
The Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP)
CCCEP is co-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.