Report finds half a billion pounds invested in climate change research since 2015
A new report about UK-funded research into climate change and international development has found the UK committed half a billion pounds (£564.2m) into over 600 research projects on climate change and international development in five years. The projects were mainly funded with UK Official Development Assistance, and the total number of projects is likely to be even higher due to how such projects are reported.
Research funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy through its Newton Fund and Global Challenges Research Fund supported 549 projects.
Understanding the relationship between climate change and international development is seen as essential to achieving UN Global Goals and meeting the terms of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The report was published by the UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR).
- The UK committed £564.2m into over 600 UK ODA and Wellcome-funded research projects on climate change and international development over five financial years (2015-16 and 2019-20). The number is likely to be even higher due to how such projects are reported.
- A total of 111 countries were identified as partners in these research projects and/or primary intended beneficiaries, most commonly China (123 research projects), India (88), Kenya (69), Egypt (53) and Brazil (48).
- Case studies published alongside the report illustrate the kinds of impact this research has had. They include: tools to inform policy, innovative solutions to reduce emissions, better understanding of weather patterns, improvements to health and air quality, and more research capacity. However, there were also calls from interview and survey participants for a more rigorous way of evaluating the impact of interventions.
- UK-funded research on climate change and international development has an important role to play in understanding the opportunities, challenges and trade-offs associated with the COP26 priorities.
- Mutual partnerships and openness to collaboration are key strengths of UK-funded research but understanding and aligning research to local contexts in practice could be improved.
- Sustainability of the research funding cycle is a perceived weakness of UK-funded climate-development research.
- Demand for research covered a wide range of topics, but mitigation, adaptation, disaster risk reduction, energy and food systems were the most commonly cited research priorities.
- A significant proportion of survey respondents (45%) thought that UK-funded research was meeting current demands “to a moderate extent,” with partnerships between research disciplines and with in-country actors essential to ensuring research is demand-led and can take a systems approach.
- The COVID-19 pandemic requires the research community to align further to maximise its impact with limited resources. The pandemic also presents opportunities for research to promote a low-carbon recovery, behaviour change, resilience, and shifting research leadership to in-country teams.
The report was commissioned by the Strategic Coherence for ODA-funded Research (SCOR) Board in 2019. It was produced by a specially formed UKCDR Steering Group, in consultation with Specialist Advisor Prof. Mark Pelling, GCRF Challenge Leader for resilience to environmental shocks and change.
The project team used qualitative and quantitative data, obtained through stakeholder surveys and interviews, to produce an analysis of the £564.2m portfolio of UK commitment during the period 2015 to 2020. The report highlights positive perceptions about the UK's leadership on climate change research. Survey respondents associated this leadership with the UK’s world leading scientists, thought leadership, cutting-edge research, influence, legitimacy, evidence-based voice and high profile in the climate change arena. Stakeholders also highlighted the UK’s leadership: helping to shape and drive global agendas , its unique capacity to link both development and science, and the standing and reputation of UK institutions on the global stage. For example, the Met Office whose influence was highlighted by several stakeholders. The UK has invested substantially in expanding the network of Met Offices for delivery of weather and climate services around the world. One stakeholder from the international community described the UK Met Office as “the gold standard for the world” and that “other nations look to the UK Met Office to develop their own”.
Based on UKCDR’s key findings the report also provides recommendations for international development research funders, as well as wider members of the research community.
- Research funders should work with partners to increase the proportion of funding going to the least developed and low-income countries which are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and direct greater funding to applied and systems based research.
- Research funders should further prioritise alignment and collaboration in their strategies to support climate and sustainable development goals in the context of possible budgetary constraints and in the longer timelines required to achieve some climate impacts.
- Research funders should consider more flexible approaches to facilitate and incentivise partnerships on a scale and in the locations needed to ensure that climate-development research is demand-driven, increasingly solutions-orientated and aligned with local priorities.
- Research funders should continue to promote equitable partnerships when conducting research on a scale and in locations required to meet climate development goals.
- Researchers and research funders must draw on lessons learned from COVID-19, seek further ministerial commitments to “greening” the recovery from COVID-19.
The UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) is a collaborative of government and research funders working in international development, governed by the Strategic Coherence for ODA-funded Research (SCOR) Board. Our core contributing members include the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy; the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (formerly Department for International Development); the Department of Health and Social Care; UK Research and Innovation; and Wellcome. UKCDR exists to amplify the value and impact of research for global development by promoting coherence, collaboration and joint action among UK research funders. For further information on UKCDR, please visit ukcdr.org.uk.