Theory of Change

Triggering a shift in systems

The global community needs giant leaps forward to avoid catastrophic climate change. Staying within a 2°C rise in warming demands radical changes to the way we use natural resources, materials and energy, to our built environment, our mobility, or the way we grow and consume food.

Our vision is for a prosperous, inclusive, climate-resilient society founded on a net zero-carbon, circular economy. This is a new climate-conscious economy, where finance flows to green projects and activities, and where motivated people are empowered with the skills and capacity they need to take action.

This can only be achieved through wholesale systemic change — change that encompasses not just the technical and material, but regulation, governance structures, values and mindsets. 

The systems we need to change

Climate-KIC works on transformative, systemic innovation that involves many connected innovations developing in parallel to trigger a shift in the system. We aim to take good ideas, products or services from niche to mainstream to reach a tipping point and create maximum impact.

Guided by the Paris Agreement, our advisors and our community, Climate-KIC has identified cities, land use and manufacturing as the three major systems, where, if change were triggered wholesale and emissions reduced, would have the most potential in realising a climate-resilient society and net-zero carbon economy.

Our approach is to carve out space for experimentation by piloting, testing and scaling. We learn from these pilots by observing the change and recalibrating our approach in response to our insights.

Theory of Change

Impact goals

We are working along pathways to produce the outcomes and impacts needed in these three major systems by 2030. These impacts will help get us on track with avoiding dangerous climate change. These pathways are consistent with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals set in 2015. They are:

Area of Focus

Impact Goal

Urban Transitions

  • Promote retrofit and decentralised energy
  • Create green, resilient cities
  • Accelerate clean urban mobility

Sustainable Land Use

  • Make agriculture climate-smart
  • Transform food systems
  • Nurture forests in integrated landscapes

Sustainable Production Systems

  • Recast materials production
  • Reduce industry emissions
  • Reboot regional economies

Decision Metrics and Finance

  • Mainstream climate in financial markets
  • Democratise climate risk information
  • Foster bankable green assets in cities
Theory of Change

Ways of triggering change in the system

Stimulating the flows of information that support evidenced decision-making, facilitating inclusive governance structures, leveraging high-ambition networks and enabling a level playing field for climate-positive approaches, products and services are among the ways we look to trigger change in systems. 

We focus our activities on creating the opportunities and providing the resources and seed funding to help new ideas emerge and grow. Our education, entrepreneurship and research and innovation programmes help people develop the skills, competences and capacities to lead a business or section of society through transition.

The ways that we catalyse systemic innovation across sectors include:

  • engaging a new generation of climate leaders
  • instigating behaviour change and building capacity
  • enabling connections and collaborations
  • incubating and accelerating a supply of entrepreneurial new businesses 
  • stimulating demand for climate-friendly goods, products and services 
  • mainstreaming financial models, measures and standards compatible with the Paris Agreement
  • removing barriers through policy and advocacy
Get involved

Developing a theory of change

Climate-KIC began work on a theory of change in late 2017. As we implement our impact pathways and crystallise our theory, you will see this page develop. We welcome your feedback. 

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