New PhD position on governance and policy analysis in globally telecoupled systems

We are now seeking to fill a 100% PhD position on “Governance institutions for sustainability in globally telecoupled systems” within the Marie-Skłodowska-Curie ETN Graduate School ‘COUPLED’, starting 1 July 2018 for a duration of 36 months.

Topic: Globally telecoupled systems such as commodity chains, long-range pollution or distant policy-driven effects present complex new challenges for sustainability governance. These are often beyond the capabilities of individual states and even multilateral institutions to regulate. At the same time, the policy and governance interventions of governments and other actors themselves often have a range of unforeseen consequences and knock-on effects. Taking European Union (EU) environmental policy as its primary vantage point, this research will: (1) identify key institutions, networks of actors and instruments deployed to govern for sustainability in specific case studies of telecoupled systems (e.g. global trade and supply chains and networks), and (2) assess their impacts with particular attention to so-called ‘policy-driven displacement’ effects, policy spillovers and feed-backs (e.g. increased deforestation resulting from EU biofuels policy). On the basis of this analysis, the research will (3) identify governance levers for effective intervention at multiple levels (from multilateral to local) and among different actors (e.g. governmental, private sector, civil society) to address policy-driven displacement effects.

In carrying out this work, the ESR will: (1) Conduct interviews and documentary research to chart networks and key actors and structures associated with EU efforts to govern for sustainability in telecoupled systems (focusing on certain specific cases such as agricultural commodity chains or raw resource flows); (2) analyse and assess the effectiveness (success factors and barriers, social and environmental impacts) of different governance arrangements and their unintended policy-driven displacement effects; and (3) propose potential policy and governance interventions for increased sustainability in telecoupled systems. The ESR will be jointly supervised by Prof. Jens Newig, Dr. Edward Challies and Prof. Patrick Meyfroidt (Earth and Life Institute, Catholic University of Leuven). Potential secondment placements include the German Federal Environmental Ministry in Berlin (Germany) and the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium).

Location: Leuphana University Lüneburg is a young university, focusing on sustainability, cultural and political science, education, and management and entrepreneurship, and has repeatedly been awarded for innovation. The Research Group on Governance, Participation and Sustainability, led by Prof. Newig, is affiliated both with Leuphana’s Faculty of Sustainability and with its Centre for the Study of Democracy. A multidisciplinary group of senior and early-career social scientists, it focuses on addressing the big challenges of governance in the context of environmental and sustainability politics.

We seek: a candidate with an above-average MSc (or equivalent degree) in Political Science, Human Geography, Sustainability Science or cognate discipline. We expect a strong interest in environmental policy and governance. Excellent written and spoken English is essential, and experience with both qualitative and quantitative methods (e.g. Social Network Analysis) would be advantageous.

Mobility Rule: Please note that at the time of recruitment, candidates must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Germany for more than 12 months in the last 3 years (in accordance to the funding programme of the ETN). Leuphana University Lüneburg is an equal opportunity employer committed to fostering heterogeneity among its staff. Applications by qualified individuals are strongly encouraged. Disabled applicants with equal qualifications will be given priority consideration.

Contact: Prof. Dr Jens Newig; e-mail:

Applications including a letter of motivation, full CV, a draft proposal, relevant certificates/transcripts, and contact details for two references shall be submitted via the project website

Application deadline: 24 November 2017.

Wind energy conflicts in forested landscapes- Insights from stakeholder interviews in Maine, USA and Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

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By Nataly Jürges

Renewable energy projects are increasingly realized worldwide as part of a global strategy to reduce emissions from fossil fuels and to reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels such as natural gas and oil. However, the transition towards renewable energies is not without problems. For example, wind energy projects in forests are an emotional topic in different parts of the world, and can develop into serious conflicts. Conflicts about renewable energy projects are an important topic from a sustainability governance perspective. The governance of wind energy conflicts is an important issue in the transition towards renewable energies. As part of my PhD project, I examined wind energy conflicts in forested landscapes in Maine, USA and Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Between summer 2014 and beginning of 2015 I spent 8 months at the School of Forest Resources at the University of Maine, where I did a case study on wind energy conflicts in forested landscapes as part of my PhD research.

Conflicts over wind energy projects in forests are complex, often involving many stakeholders, such as forest owners, local residents, wind energy companies, nature conservationists and recreationists. Forty-six interviewees from Rhineland-Palatinate and Maine shared their experiences and perspectives on wind energy conflicts with me. Surprisingly, the arguments of involved parties were similar in both regions. Even though differences in the overall governance structure made for some slight differences in decision-making processes in the case study regions, wind energy conflicts turned out to be quite universal (at least in the cases of Maine, USA and Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany).

For example, transparency, or rather a perceived lack of transparency in decision-making, was mentioned in stakeholder interviews in both cases as an important factor in the development of conflicts and controversies around wind energy projects:

“What we’re speaking to is really a sore spot in this town because we would argue and we wouldn’t never back down on that, they kept it secret for a year, they kept it secret for as long as they could to get the ordinance in favor of the developer, and the developer kept it secret to build his alliance and that really matters in terms of how everybody feels about it once they come aware. It would have been much more respectful of the town government to once they were being asked by a developer to consider a huge project, which is way, way out of proportion out of anything that’s ever been going on in [name of the town]. If you’re a small town in Maine and a gigantic development project is coming into town, I feel that they are absolutely obligated to make that as public as possible from the first idea. From the conception of it and they did absolutely the opposite. There was nothing and we are 3,000 feet away from the project. We would be hugely impacted if they went up and they had, they never showed us any respect at all in that regard.”

(Interview quote from an interview with residents near a planned wind energy project)

The most appropriate level or scale for decision-making about wind energy projects was an important aspect in discussions on how to govern wind energy projects most efficiently, effectively, and legitimately. Different perceptions existed in both case study areas as to whether higher or lower administrative governance levels are more appropriate to decide about controversial wind energy projects.

Local decision-making tradition was mentioned as an important argument for the choice of the most appropriate decision-making level, particularly in Maine:

“We’re a state that loves its local control, so, for better or for worse, that’s what we have. You know, there are times when local control is great because those communities understand the needs, wants and desires of their community. Sometimes it can be a draw back if you’re trying to make sort of a systemic change in the way a society operates. So, for example, if you’re trying as a society to move away from fossil fuels and into more clean energy, sometimes local control can be challenging. But that doesn’t mean that we should do away with it.”

(Interview participant from Maine)

However, other interview participants did not share the preference for local decision-making. Consideration of nature conservation interests was seen as being better realized at higher governance levels:

“Everything concerning the protection of species cannot be considered at the local scale. Especially if it is a mobile species, as bats and birds, then you just have to have the greater perspective. Check main occurrence, where are the main migratory lines.”

                (Nature conservationist from Rhineland-Palatinate)

The perception of the most appropriate level or scale for decision-making about wind energy projects was often based on conflicting frames about what wind energy projects are about. For example, some interviewees saw wind energy projects mainly in the context of nature conservation and species protection, while others saw wind energy projects as a topic related to local regional development. These conflicting issue frames quite often resulted in different understandings about the most appropriate decision-making level.