Delivering energy and climate policy at the city level in the UK

The Place-based Climate Action Network (PCAN) is about translating climate policy into action ‘on the ground’ in our communities. Through PCAN, we will stimulate a vital flow of action, operationalising the Paris Agreement, UK targets and individual city ambitions to deliver place-based impact. The result will be healthier, more prosperous and resilient cities with reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Innovations in governance and finance will ensure the flow also spreads laterally, informing learning, creating connections and building momentum. The aim is to establish an agile, effective and sustainable network for climate action that is embedded in localities, and that through partnerships with local authorities will build broader capacity to effect transformative change.

Our vision is for PCAN to produce a replicable model that delivers climate policies on a global to local scale, facilitating and inspiring places across the UK.

The project

PCAN is an ESRC-supported Network that brings together the research community and decision-makers in the public, private and third sectors. It consists of five innovative platforms to facilitate two-way, multi-level engagement between researchers and stakeholders: three city-based climate commissions and two theme-based platforms on adaptation and finance, with a business theme integrated into each climate commission.

The five-year project is led by an experienced team of researchers with strong track records of engaging with public, private and third-sector decision-makers. PCAN builds on the policy connections, networking capacity and research strengths of its host institutions: the Centre for Sustainability and Environmental Governance at Queen’s University Belfast; the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute; the University of Leeds, and the London School of Economics and Political Science.


The key to implementing climate action lies increasingly at the local level, with the participation of local actors, businesses and citizens. This is recognised and championed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UK Committee on Climate Change. The aim of PCAN is to strengthen links between national and international climate policies and their local delivery. Clear policy signals by the UK Government remain essential, but the important decisions are made beyond Westminster, creating opportunities for climate action within localities: decisions about low-carbon business opportunities, renewable energy investment, urban transport, energy management, buildings efficiency and the management of climate risks.

Network components

PCAN is about engagement, impact, and the co-creation and sharing of knowledge. The Network has the following components:
1. Place-based climate commissions: PCAN will develop three city-level climate commissions, in Belfast, Edinburgh and Leeds. The concept is already being piloted in Leeds as an innovative structure for sustained two-way, multi-level engagement between national and local policies and practices. We will work on the replication of these commissions in other cities and local contexts to further broaden the Network's reach.
2. Thematic platforms: There are theme-based platforms, on adaptation and finance, with business interests represented and integrated throughout at climate commission level. These networks focus on stakeholder groups that are particularly important for place-based climate action and are co-created with representatives from their respective communities.

3. The PCAN Fund: We are opening the Network to the wider community of climate change researchers and research users by commissioning 20 to 30 small grants totalling £400,000 over five years. The grants are awarded competitively, with a focus on engagement activities, user-oriented analysis, innovative approaches and support for early-career researchers.
4. Communication and user-oriented research synthesis: An active outreach strategy connects place-based activities and informs wider climate action by co-producing, synthesising and communicating decision-relevant analysis. This programme of user-oriented outreach will leverage the work of PCAN’s host institutions and other ESRC investments.


PCAN will be successful if it can inform the climate change decisions of stakeholders across the five platforms. PCAN will focus on activities that support key UK policy objectives and their local implementation, such as: the city strategies of Belfast, Edinburgh and Leeds; the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, Clean Growth Strategy, and 25-year Environment Plan; the statutory carbon budgets; the third UK Climate Change Risk Assessment; the recommendations of the UK Green Finance Task Force, and the recommendations of the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), as well as the climate strategies of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

PCAN will respond flexibly to evolving demands. This will ensure that the platforms we create become self-sustaining and can be replicated elsewhere.