Photo by theverticalstory on Unsplash


May 2019 to April 2024

PI: Lorraine Whitmarsh

Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST)

Funded by: ESRC


Cardiff, UEA, Manchester, York, Utrecht, Climate Outreach

Partners and stakeholders:

Anglian Water, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Welsh Government, 10:10, Wates Construction, IPCC



While there is now strong international momentum on action to tackle climate change, it is clear that critical targets will be missed without fundamental transformations in everyday lives. CAST’s aim is to advance society’s understanding of how to transform lifestyles and organisations in order to achieve a low-carbon future. At its core, is a fundamental question: how can we as a society live differently – and better – in ways that meet the urgent need for far-reaching and rapid emission reductions?


CAST will focus on people as agents of transformation in four areas of everyday life that impact directly on climate change but have proven stubbornly resistant to change: food, travel, heating/cooling, and consumption of goods. We will work across multiple scales (individual, household, community, organisational, national and global) to identify and experiment with various routes to achieving lasting change in these challenging areas. In particular, we will test how far focussing on ‘co-benefits’ will accelerate the pace of change. Co-benefits are outcomes of value to individuals and society, over and above the benefits from reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These may include improved health and wellbeing, reduced waste, better air quality, greater social equality, security, and affordability. For example, low-carbon travel choices (such as cycling and car sharing) may bring health, social and financial benefits that are more likely to motivate behaviour and policy change.  Our Research Themes recognise that transformative change requires: inspiring yet workable visions of the future (Theme 1); learning lessons from past and current societal shifts (Theme 2); experimenting with different models of social change (Theme 3); together with deep engagement with communities, business and governments, and a research culture that promotes action (Theme 4).

Our Centre integrates academic knowledge from disciplines across the social and natural sciences with practical insights to generate widespread impact. We will use a range of theories and research methods to fill key gaps in our understanding of transformation at different spatial and social scales, and show how to target interventions to impactful actions, groups and moments in time. Critically, we will partner with practitioners, policy-makers and companies to develop and test new ways of engaging with the public, governments and businesses in the UK and internationally. We will enhance citizens’, organisations’ and societal leaders’ capacity to tackle climate change through various mechanisms, including placements, citizen’s panels, small-scale project funding, seminars, training, workshops, papers, blog posts and an interactive website. We will also experiment with transformations within academia itself, by trialling sustainable working practices, being ‘reflexive’ (studying our own behaviour and its impacts on others), and making our outputs and data publically available.

Our official launch event will be confirmed soon, but is provisionally booked for the 18 September in Cardiff.

Banner photo credit: theverticalstory on Unsplash