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25/07/2014

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Living With Environmental Change

Public engagement is part of the programme, says Andrew Watkinson

The Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) partnership is a major new initiative bringing together 20 UK organisations funding, undertaking and using environmental research. The specific aim is to bring together researchers, policy makers, business and other organisations to co-design research so that it can more effectively meet all of their needs.

Communications strategy

In order to achieve its objectives, the LWEC programme will need to communicate with a wide range of stakeholders and work to enhance people’s skills and knowledge. This will help people in all walks of life to make better decisions and create opportunities for the development of the economy.

Initially the programme is developing three overlapping elements in its communications strategy. First, it will be identifying and communicating, through a range of methods, key programme messages to relevant audiences such as parliamentarians and local communities. Second, the public engagement strategy, led by the Economic and Social Research Council, will involve working with members of the public over the course of the programme so that their views can be used to inform decision making by the partners. Third, the programme will be championing knowledge exchange (the two-way flow of ideas – and, in this case, people) between the research environment and wider community to help improve the national economy and quality of life.

Change coming

The LWEC initiative derives from the recognition that our planet faces unprecedented change. Adapting to environmental change is not, however, just a long term issue or related solely to the pressing issue of climate change. By 2030, the demand for energy and food is likely to double, and there will be a 30 per cent increase in current needs for freshwater.

Meeting the needs of eight billion people, two billion more than at present, represents a considerable challenge, especially if we are to meet the Millennium Development Goals in alleviating poverty and protect the natural capital upon which we depend. Biodiversity is already under threat and there is concern that the increased pressures on the land and sea, together with climate change, will usher in an era of rapid biodiversity loss across the globe.

Programme goals

Urgent, dramatic and far reaching action is required to respond to these challenges.  We will need to draw on the best available science in the natural, physical and social sciences. The LWEC initiative aims to deliver that science and help deliver the transition to a low carbon society, ensure food, water and human security and increase the resilience of vulnerable people and places. It aims to do this by providing the knowledge and tools that are needed by people, government and business to make informed choices about the future.

Meeting users’ needs

If the results and tools are to be effective it is essential that they meet the needs of users. This is why the LWEC programme is placing such a strong emphasis on the co-design and co-production of research with organisations like the Local Government Association, the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Research excellence coupled with the efficient and effective uptake of that science by government, business and society, lie at the heart of the LWEC programme. Together they will deliver risk based predictions of the potential impacts of environmental change, integrated analyses of the response options, and guidance for more effective sustainable management of the environment. The programme will also produce new technology and infrastructure solutions in the management of environmental change and a more research informed dialogue and debate about the environmental challenges and choices that we face, as well as their economic and social consequences.

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Professor Andrew Watkinson
Professor Andrew Watkinson is Director of the Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) programme
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