Looking at the data differently to highlight those left in the cold

Professor Lucie Middlemiss and Dr Diana Ivanova investigate how energy and environmental policies can put people with disabilities at a disadvantage.

They aim to put justice at the centre of sustainability research to ensure that environmental policies work for everybody.

“We took on this project because of a mutual interest in disability and how environmental thinkers tend to ignore disability and the people that experience it,” said Professor Middlemiss.

“In the EU, almost one in four people have a disability. So when we think about that number of people and the fact we’re not contemplating what their needs are when we design policy for environmental change, that’s a big problem.”

Professor Middlemiss and Dr Ivanova worked together to understand the energy needs and uses of disabled people across Europe. They found a substantial gap in the data available about disabled people, particularly children, pensioners and employed people.

What the available data did show indicates that disabled households in the EU were consuming less energy than other households, most likely out of necessity. They were also more likely to experience energy poverty.

The researchers call for policymakers to consider the needs of disabled people in their climate and environment policies.

To find out more, read the Spotlight essay ‘Looking at the data differently to highlight those left in the cold’.

About the researchers

Lucie Middlemiss is a Professor of Environment and Society in the School of Earth and Environment. She wrote the textbook on Sustainable Consumption (Routledge, 2018). Her research interests include energy poverty and participation in sustainable development.

Recently she has been working with partners in Leeds City Council and elsewhere to address fuel poverty, to think about what motivates people to get involved in energy retrofit and to think more broadly about how to ensure people are appropriately included in a transition to Net Zero.

Listen to Professor Middlemiss discuss fuel poverty on the University's 'How to Fix' podcast.

Dr Diana Ivanova is a Research Fellow in the School of Earth and Environment.

Diana is the recipient of an individual fellowship funded by the European Commission on ‘The potential for Sharing Resources for mitigating carbon emissions and other environmental impacts’ (ShaRe).

Her research focuses on the environmental impacts embodied in consumption, particularly energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.