Economics, policy, politics

Meeting the world’s future energy needs in an environmentally responsible and affordable manner is an enormous technical challenge.  However, the challenge of devising policies and regulatory interventions that will enable this to be done in an economically efficient, politically feasible, and socially and ethically acceptable manner, is perhaps even greater.

Social scientists across Oxford address all aspects of this challenge, working on major UK Government policy programmes and in many internationally recognised Centres.  Many Oxford academics sit on high-level government panels in the United Kingdom, the United Nations Climate Change Programme and elsewhere, advising on the scientific evidence and possible transition pathways and the financial, policy and legal regimes that can best implement them.  As always in Oxford, they work closely with technical colleagues to ensure research and advice is grounded in what is technically achievable.


Research in Oxford

Solar panel farm, close up to panels
It is hard to provide consumers with a credible way to distinguish between power from a coal plant with power from a solar farm

The range of research is huge, with only a sample given here.  UK Government policy programmes we lead include:

We also run major self-funded programmes including:

  • Post-Carbon Transition programme (Oxford Martin School), identifying positive ‘tipping points’ that could help move global economic development firmly onto a zero carbon path
  •  Net Zero Climate (Strategic Research Fund), researching principles and policies, practical tools, and progress tracking to help businesses and policymakers achieve net zero goals

Major Centres include:

  • Smith School  of Enterprise and the Environment, researching the complex interaction between the economy and environment and providing insights into how a future integrated system could be made sustainable,  The Smith School works closely with the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  •  The Environmental Change Institute: Energy Programme, whose research addresses the transition to secure, low-environmental-impact and equitable energy systems.  The research includes current patterns and potential futures of technologies, future energy demand, skills, human activities, knowledge, markets, policy and governance
  • Transport Studies Unit,  advancing understanding of the systems, processes and practices that shape the way people and goods move, so informing a change towards a more sustainable, just and accessible transport system
  • Oxford Martin School, running many major multi-disciplinary programmes including Large-scale Integration of Renewable Energy, Carbon Investment, Future of Cooling, Dryland Bio-energy, and GeoEngineering.  The Oxford Martin School also runs many nature-based net-zero and biodiversity programmes

Research on the energy transition, encompassing economics, markets, regulation and politics is also done in ‘traditional’ Departments such as Law, Politics and International Relations, Economics, Philosophy, Overseas Development, the Blavatnik School of Government and the Said Business School.  Professors from these departments are active in multi-disciplinary energy transition-related programmes of the Oxford Martin School.