New research to understand vulnerabilities of poorest families and communities on the road to net zero  

Date: 28 September 2021

  • Research led by the Institute for Community Studies and funded by the Nuffield Foundation seeks to ensure no one is left behind by transition to a carbon-neutral society  
  • Landmark project will build a framework for understanding and responding to the how UK’s transition to net zero will affect the poorest families and communities  
  •  Household, social, and economic shifts are needed if the UK is to meet net zero targets by 2050 target. This project aims to mitigate negative impacts on those likely to be disproportionately affected. 
  • Resulting framework will be instantly useable by policymakers and local authorities to assess the net zero targets’ impact on their local communities and plan for a ‘just’ transition.  

The Young Foundation’s Institute for Community Studies is launching a landmark research project, which will build an actionable framework for responding to the UK’s transition to net zero, and understanding how this shift will affect families and the communities in which they live.  

The new project, which has been generously funded by the Nuffield Foundation, has been borne out of a desire to level the playing field as the UK moves towards a net zero carbon society.  

The research will identify how to mitigate the potential negative impacts that the UK’s transition to net zero by 2050 could have on the poorest 20% of families and communities, if local and national transition strategies do not take into account the specific needs of those communities. These groups include families living with vulnerabilities, such as low income, poor housing and lack of access to services, as well as specific identifies communities, with particular concern for post-industrial cities and areas such as Leeds, Newcastle, and the Welsh Valleys.  

The resulting framework is aimed at those leading transition strategies in national and local government, and the energy and social sectors. It will instantly enable users to assess the impact that the UK’s transition to net zero will have on families and local communities and plan for a ‘just’ transition to net zero – one that fights disadvantage, reduces inequalities, and ensures that everyone benefits from the UK’s success in fighting climate change.  

Emily Morrison, Head of the Institute for Community Studies, said: “We know from our research that, all too often, societal transition leaves behind the poorest families and communities in ways that is avoidable if researchers can work collaboratively with leaders, with a stake in all parts of the transition strategy. Achieving the social, economic, technological and behavioural shift that needs to happen for net zero requires researchers, innovators and policymakers to work with and listen to the communities it will most affect. We are thrilled that the Nuffield Foundation has chosen to fund this much-needed and inclusive research.”  

Alex Beer, Welfare Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation, said: “This important research will provide timely insights into the costs and benefits of the transition to a net zero economy, and indicate how these can be shared more fairly across the UK population. By engaging with communities, researchers, and policymakers, the research team will help identify risks and ensure that the transition to net zero will improve people’s lives, as well as contributing to the fight against climate change.”  

The Institute for Community Studies and the Nuffield Foundation will be collaborating with researchers from The University of York, University of Leeds and Trinity College Dublin for the project, which will be completed in December 2022.  


Notes to editors:  

For more information, please contact 

Spokespeople available:  

  • Emily Morrison, Head of the Institute for Community Studies  
  • Alex Beer, Welfare Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation  

Building a comprehensive framework of the risks and opportunities that families and communities face as a result of the transition, will be done in three stages:  

  1. Reviewing current literature and case studies, and synthesing macro, local and statistical data to identify and create a composite framework of what is known about the factors that will impact families and communities in transition to net zero, and may affect families and communities’ capabilities to respond. This information will be used to create a draft framework and identify gaps in current knowledge.  
  1. Testing the framework in participatory community-based and multi-stakeholder workshops to understand the lived experience of families and communities – and to develop a co-produced, revised framework that identifies key indicators of vulnerability or capability.   
  1. Further developing the framework with stakeholders across the social, welfare, economic, energy and environmental sectors, and in national and local government, with support from the Ministry for Communities, Housing and Local Government, major players in the energy sector and civil society representatives. 

About the Institute for Community Studies  

The Institute for Community Studies is a new kind of research institute, with people and communities at its heart. We believe that involvement of communities leads to better decision-making on the issues that most affect them. We engage with communities and experts across the UK to identify and prioritise the top questions that research and policy need to answer, based on what matters, directing research towards the most urgent and salient questions, and amplifying community perspectives. We prove and improve our practice by understanding what’s working, and through systematic engagement with communities, the sector and experts, share where there are weaknesses and gaps in our understanding. Through a unique combination of methods, we are giving increasing weight to the stories, experience and evidence created in communities supported through our growing national network of community researchers. We provoke direct engagement with policy makers, business and those holding the power to change the experience of communities today through working with those who care about taking action. The Institute for Community Studies is powered by The Young Foundation.  


About The Young Foundation:   

The Young Foundation’s mission is to develop better connected and stronger communities across the UK. We research in and with communities to increase understanding of community life today. We offer different methods and approaches to involve communities and grow their capacity to own and lead change. We provide tools and resources to support innovation to tackle the issues people and communities care about. We’re a UKRI accredited research organisation, social investor and community practitioner.  


About the Nuffield Foundation:  

The Nuffield Foundation is an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. It funds research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare, and Justice. It also funds student programmes that provide opportunities for young people to develop skills in quantitative and scientific methods. The Nuffield Foundation is the founder and co-funder of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the Ada Lovelace Institute and the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory. The Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation. Visit