Understanding the Social Impacts of UK Climate Policies

In the next decade there is a serious risk that the most significant social impacts of climate change in the UK will result not from climate change itself but from the distributional consequences of policies chosen to tackle climate change. Understanding these consequences is therefore central to the development of socially just responses to climate change in the UK. However such an understanding is currently immature and, as yet, relatively insignificant in its influence. The project proposed here will address this knowledge gap by developing, analysing and disseminating the information required to enhance understanding in this increasingly important area.

This project aims to provide the understanding and analytical tools necessary to underpin socially just responses to climate change in the UK, by:

  • revealing in detail the distributional consequences of a wide-range of current, proposed and possible future policies designed to mitigate UK household energy and transport-related carbon emissions;
  • enhancing understanding of these social aspects of climate policy within both climate and social policy arenas; and
  • improving and proliferating capability to model policy options and assess their justness.

The research methodology focuses on establishing a representative household dataset capable of supporting robust analysis of distributional impacts of climate change policies. This requires both the integration of a variety of datasets, together with sophisticated statistical analysis across four project phases. For reasons relating to modelling accuracy and policy relevance, we chose to limit the scope of our research to direct emissions from household energy use, private road transport, public transport, and air travel.

The methodology uses data from four large-scale publicly available national datasets: the Expenditure and Food Survey, the English House Condition Survey, the National Travel Survey (for road, rail and domestic air) and the Air Passenger Survey (for international air). Having integrated the above datasets into a synthetic 'super survey', we are using our existing and proven policy modelling tools and approaches to test the social distributional impacts of a range of existing climate change mitigation policies such as Government policy to 2020 as defined in the Low Carbon Transition Plan as well as a set of alternative interventions such as carbon taxes and personal carbon trading.


Final report expected in mid 2011.

Further Information

For more information on this research project please contact Dr Christian Brand.