The Observatory for Public Engagement with Energy and Climate Change is a core capability of UKERC.

What is the Observatory

The UKERC Public Engagement Observatory maps the many different ways that people are engaging with energy, climate change and net zero on an ongoing basis.

It openly shares, experiments with, and undertakes these mappings with others to help make energy and climate-related decisions, innovations, and participation more just, responsible, and responsive to society.

Through its network, the Observatory makes connections and encourages learning across wider systems of public engagement in the UK and internationally.

Why a public engagement observatory

Low carbon energy transitions depend on the meaningful engagement of society. This is key to achieving urgent social transformations and decarbonisation in ways that are responsible, just and publicly accountable. Forms of public engagement with energy and climate change are rapidly multiplying – ranging from communication, behaviour change, deliberation and citizens’ assemblies through to activism, protest, digital participation and grassroots community action.

Yet, existing engagement approaches are piecemeal, often occur in isolation, and narrowly focus on discrete forms of participation in particular issues, technologies, decisions or parts of the energy system. In response, UKERC has pioneered whole-system approaches to better understand and map the diverse ways publics are engaging with energy and low carbon transitions and how multiple forms of engagement interact in wider systems. This work underpins the Observatory capability.

What does the Observatory do

The Observatory comprises three interlinked areas of activity and research.

Mapping participation

A core activity of the Observatory is to develop and carry out new approaches that map diverse forms of public participation and engagement with energy and climate change on an ongoing basis. The Observatory is advancing three kinds of method for mapping participation: comparative case analysis, crowdsourcing and digital methods. These mappings are regularly updated and openly shared via the Observatory’s website.

Observatory network

The Observatory connects UK and international actors interested in public engagement with energy and climate change from different disciplines, approaches and sectors. It serves as a platform for learning and reflection about publics, participation and energy-climate related issues. This is facilitated through a series of events, webinars, workshops and shared online resources.

Experiments for responsible innovation and just transitions

The Observatory’s mappings are being put into practice in collective experiments with partner organisations in government, business and civil society. Here the Observatory is actively exploring how novel approaches to mapping public engagement, and the additional insights they produce, can contribute to energy and climate-related decisions, innovations and new forms participation.

The Observatory team

The Public Engagement Observatory is based in the Science, Society and Sustainability Research Group (3S) at the University of East Anglia. It is led by UKERC Co-Director Professor Jason Chilvers, supported by Dr Helen Pallett (as deputy lead), Dr Tom Hargreaves, Dr Phedeas Stephanides and Dr Laurie Waller.