Our work on mitigating climate change

The global UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) took place in Glasgow during November 2021. Discover some of the work that projects and researchers at the University of Sussex Business School are doing in this field.

Climate change and energy

Moving towards sustainable, low carbon energy systems is central to addressing climate change. The Sussex Energy Group works across several themes within energy studies. Our energy innovations and transitions work examines the aspects of change required across multiple sectors to enable the shift towards sustainable energy. Our research also looks at understanding the complex relationships between energy, finance, innovation, and economic growth. We also consider the issue of energy justice, for example the impact of fuel poverty in Europe, corruption, and violence against marginalised groups in Africa and Asia, and energy and human rights.

Significant changes in energy demand will be necessary to meet the challenges of climate change and sustainability. Our research considers how people use and interact with technology, how organisations effect change and how policies can encourage this change. Capital-intensive infrastructures – such as electricity grids, pipelines, rail networks, roads, electric charging points, buildings, and ICT –are key to delivering energy services. We investigate the governance challenges resulting from the increasing interconnectedness of such infrastructures, and how investment in smarter, low carbon infrastructures can be accelerated. We also examine issues related to the deployment of new renewable energy technologies, as well as the discontinuation of carbon-intensive technologies.

Industrial decarbonisation is of critical importance to the UK’s target of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The UK Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund aims to establish the world’s first net-zero carbon industrial cluster by 2040 and four low-carbon clusters by 2030. In response, the Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre, co-directed by Professor Sovacool supports this challenge through multidisciplinary research and innovation to accelerate decarbonisation of industrial clusters. The Centre includes research organisations, industry, civil society organisations and policymakers.

News items on energy:

Explore our Energy and Climate Policy MSc

Sustainable finance

Climate finance has been at the forefront of current discussions in academic and practitioners’ fora for a while. The COVID-19 pandemic has sharpened the focus and pushed for swifter responses from academia, financial institutions, and regulators. The Business School co-hosted Climate Finance: Challenges and lessons for the future in November 2021.

Public and private financial and investment strategies have a major global impact on how society can de-invest in unsustainable systems and move towards sustainable finance and investment. Our research reveals that environmentally minded companies are a better bet for investors than shares in their polluting rivals. A recent study also shows that the steel industry risks doubling its share of the global carbon budget if it fails to make multi-billion-pound investments in technology to limit emissions over the next five to ten years.

The Deep Transitions Futures project, coordinated by the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC) based at SPRU, has established a Global Investors Panel made up of thought leaders from the private and public sector. Together they are developing a new signature investment manifesto for transformation, termed ‘Transformative Investment’, which places sustainability and system change at the heart of finance and investment strategy and planning. TIPC is also facilitating the development of Futures Literacy, the notion of caring for our future in turbulent times and is working with representatives from innovation foundations and agencies, research institutes, start-up incubators and intergovernmental organisations, such as the OECD to develop leadership thinking and practice in this field of transformative change.

Given that environmental, social and governance issues are now a major factor in investment, and that there is rapid growth in accounting and finance careers with a specific focus on sustainability, we have launched our Sustainable Finance and Accounting MSc. We are one of only a few universities and business schools across the UK and Europe offering this as a subject.

Adapting agriculture and protecting habitats from climate change

Work across several of our projects is looking at how climate change impacts habitats and the possible solutions to enhance habitat protection. The LANDMARC project is examining the potential for agriculture, forestry, and other land use sections to enhance the uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere. 

Adapting agriculture to climate change is essential to tackle a global food system in crises. There is an urgent need to study alternatives to the modern industrial food system and to share practical and policy lessons for sustainability transformations. Evidence across Europe shows that solidarity cooperatives (or multi-stakeholder cooperatives) which bring farmers and consumers together can function successfully to promote sustainable agri-food systems at a small scale. Yet there is little research on the extent to which they represent a pathway to wider transformation. The Living Together project is studying a Korean organic food co-operative, one of the largest in the world, as a possible large-scale alternative model to the modern industrial food system, with wider implications for broader societal transformation.

Deforestation is a contributor to climate change and sustainable development is a challenge for diverse rural communities living in frontier regions of tropical forests. A project based at the School is working with an NGO responsible for management of a large protected area of rainforest on the western frontier of the Amazon basin in Peru. Some 250,000 people live in a zone around this national park. Surveys on livelihoods, crop yields, and deforestation recorded over the last 15 years provide a resource of data to analyse historic changes and point to opportunities for sustainable improvement.

Explore our Sustainable Development MSc

The impact of climate emergency declarations

Our researchers have been considering the impact on human behaviour of climate emergency declarations made by policymakers and activists, and how effective such declarations are in tackling climate change. Read the recent report and summary here.

Find out more about the wider University of Sussex response to climate change and COP26 here.

Discover the variety of our research centres and projects at the Business School.