Heleen de Coninck, chair of the Task Force and professor of Innovation Studies at TU Eindhoven and also affiliated with Radboud University Nijmegen, had the following to say about the new initiative: ‘We can still prevent the worst irreversible consequences of climate change. But this will only be possible if scientists and key social actors work closely together on system transitions. Climate-related science must be organised differently, which is why we urgently need a KIN.’
Accelerating system transitions
The climate policy in the Netherlands focuses mainly on the emissions target for 2030, but ultimately, a completely climate-neutral society must be achieved in the 2040s. The great challenge, therefore, according to the scientists in the report, is to design the social system transitions as quickly as possible. Adapting to climate change and eliminating emissions must go hand in hand. The mission of the Dutch Climate Research Initiative is to connect, strengthen and broaden climate-related research in the Netherlands, in order to accelerate system transitions in cooperation with social parties.
‘We will have to change the way we look at systems such as food and mobility, but it is still difficult for us to imagine the urgent changes needed to reduce climate risks. Scientific research is still needed to develop and test strategies immediately, together with practitioners. We have to act now,’ says De Coninck. ‘To achieve the KIN’s goals, the science itself must change as well. We have to work better together to complete “missions”. The KIN must serve society and deliver results much faster to be meaningful. This requires different skills from researchers. It means we must no longer prioritise scientifically interesting results and instead recognise the crucial importance of social impact. And it goes without saying that this requires multidisciplinary cooperation from scientists.’
Integrated climate research
A great deal of climate research is conducted in the Netherlands, but it is fragmented and not mission-driven: funding is provided through competitive calls. The Task Force’s report identifies how this can be improved for the benefit of the system transitions. The intention is to work along three pathways. The KIN Programme is a national research programme for integrated and mission-driven climate research; it connects and integrates research in relevant fields of science at Dutch research institutions. It also includes an international programme to help develop capacity for system transitions in specific developing countries. The KIN Pact highlights the activities of the main Dutch players in climate science and brings together parties to jointly work on new climate-related knowledge and knowledge applications that accelerate the required system transitions. The KIN Centre is the nexus from which the KIN Programme and the KIN Pact are coordinated and supported. The scientists recommend that the KIN Programme be launched first and without delay.