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Theme #1: Green transformations and the good life

This research theme explores the opportunities and benefits that can come from decarbonising our societies/economies. It engages with theoretical questions concerning innovation (technological and institutional), cooperation, well-being, and the good life.

Project: the non-climate benefits of decarbonisation

For many years I've been interested in understanding the opportunities - beyond avoiding climate change itself - associated with actions and policies to mitigate climate change. These can include technological innovation, increased productivity, improved environmental amenity, and enhanced health and well-being along various dimensions. My Grantham Research Institute working paper and LSE public lecture synthesise these benefits and argue that their presence changes the problem structure of international climate cooperation.

Project: Structural change & carbon emissions in china

Since 2014 I have been working with economists to consider the effect of structural change and government policy on the trajectory of China's carbon dioxide emissions. I'm currently guest editing a special issue of Structural Change & Economic Dynamics on this topic. My 2015-17 work with Lord Stern and others on the implications of structural change for China's emissions peak resulted in two journal articles, a book chapter, a policy paper and extensive media outreach and coverage. A recent research letter with Zhifu Mi and others argues that China's export-embodied emissions (carbon dioxide emitted in the course of producing exported goods) peaked in 2008, providing further evidence of the beneficial effects of structural economic change within China for the global emissions trajectory.


Theme #2: Anti-fossil fuel politics and governance

This research theme is concerned with understanding and overcoming some of the greatest barriers to decarbonisation, namely the power of fossil fuel industries and their relationships with governments. It engages with theoretical questions concerning the nature and diffusion of prohibitionary moral norms, democratic institutions, social movement activism, and the conceptualisation and rights of business corporations. 

project: anti-fossil fuel norms

This project applies international relations theory on "global moral norms" to analyse the logic and prospects of recent anti-fossil fuel activism and fossil fuel-restrictive regulation. My article, "Anti-Fossil Fuel Norms", was recently published in Climatic Change. I explore the normative foundations of fossil fuel-restrictive regulation in my book chapter, "The Normative Foundations of Climate Legislation".

project: policies to restrict fossil fuels

My article with Richard Denniss, recently published in Climatic Change and covered in Vox, explores the political and economic case for policies to restrict fossil fuel supply, which have been relatively neglected by policymakers and scholars of climate policy. We argue that such policies should be in the climate policy "toolkit" (alongside carbon pricing and other more prominent kinds of climate policies). My recent commentary in Nature Climate Change discusses the logic of "fossil fuel bans", which are becoming increasingly common, yet have been neglected in scholarship on climate policy.

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Theme #3: Just transitions for the "losers" from structural change

Decarbonisation - like other policy, technological, economic and cultural changes - creates "losers". I'm interested in when and how societies should provide for the putative losers of such changes through "transition policy", as well as the political implications of different kinds of transition policies. This work engages with how people experience changes in their socio-economic status or well-being over time, and brings my climate change work into a wider conversation about socio-economic inequalities, contemporary capitalism, and the politics of structural change.

Project: the political ethics of legal change

When governments change the law, this typically creates winners and losers. My PhD research considers the normative issues associated with legal transitions. What constitutes a loss? Under what conditions should governments provide transitional assistance to law reform's "losers"? What form should such assistance take? And, methodologically, how should we go about answering these questions?

project: Coal Transitions - Research & Dialogue on the future of Coal

From 2016-2018 I was involved in a six-country research project exploring transitional dynamics in the coal sector. I worked with colleagues at the Australian National University and the University of Melbourne on the Australian arm of the project. My work in the consisted of a synthesis paper on the who, what, why and how of "transitional assistance policy" to accompany climate mitigation, a co-authored working paper on the political economy of coal transitions in Australia, and a multi-authored journal article in Climate Policy, which considers the coal transition challenge associated with meeting the Paris Agreement's aspirational 1.5C target. I’ve also written a policy brief on the prospects of a just transition away from coal in Australia.