PhD scholarship: Adaptation to Climate Change – Exploring the Scope for Reducing Climate Risks and Supporting Sustainable Development

DTU Management Engineering
Thursday 05 Apr 18

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The Centre on Energy, Climate and Sustainable Development, part of the UNEP DTU Partnership, invites applications for a PhD research project focused on technologies for climate change adaptation in the context of sustainable development.

Over the past 25 years, the Centre on Climate, Energy and Sustainable development of the UNEP DTU Partnership ( has become a leading international research and advisory hub on energy, climate and sustainable Development. The Partnership is an integrated part of the Department of Management Engineering at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). The Centre works in close partnership with the United Nations Environment Program (UN Environment) and has project activities in more than 50 developing countries. The Centre collaborates with a large number of national and international government and research institutions, especially in developing countries.

The Paris Climate Change Agreement together with the Sustainable Development Goals set the scene for increased focus on accelerating investments in climate technologies for a sustainable future. For developing countries governments, as well as private investors, to decide on which technologies for climate change adaptation to prioritize and to invest in, there is a growing demand for information on the impacts of technologies, both in terms of climate risk reduction potential as well as potential co-benefits in terms of social, environmental and economic impacts.

Traditionally, adaptation has been viewed as a matter for national governments, which for example are responsible for flood preparedness, irrigation schemes, research and development of improved seeds, and dams and water availability. In an ideal world, individuals and communities would act autonomously without government planning or intervention. Nevertheless, often this is not the case. Continuous constraints such as inadequate information (access, availability, quality) entails that governments remain in lead positions when it comes to taking climate adaptation initiatives. In order to move towards more autonomous adaptation and private investments, but also better government planning, improved and more information on the technologies and their effectiveness to reduce climate risks as well as their potential co-benefits is required.

Measuring the impacts and effectiveness of technologies for climate change adaptation, however, has proven challenging. In the way we understand technologies today, it includes everything from a change in practice and exchange in knowledge to the more hardware intensive technologies, e.g. for coastal protection. This may complicate assessment and quantification of technologies. Another complicating aspect is that many technologies for climate adaptation are essentially integration of new aspects into existing technologies.

Project aims
The PhD project should have an overall focus on how to assess and track effectiveness and impacts of technologies for climate change adaptation in developing countries. Specifically, the project should focus on the development of socio-economic approaches to standardize the evaluation of the technologies in terms of their costs, benefits and climate risk reduction potentials, and therefrom ease the way for better comparison, prioritization and implementation.

Research methodology
There is scope within the project for pursuing an interdisciplinary framework of analysis combining different theoretical perspectives as well as methodological approaches. Nevertheless, the research should include a strong element of socio-economics. Research methods should mostly be in the form of quantitative (primarily secondary) data collection and analysis, complemented with framework and methodology development. Potential approaches to this research include, but are not limited to economic assessment approaches, including cost benefit analysis, as well as a risk reduction approach.

Candidates should have a Master’s degree in a relevant social science discipline (for example economics, agricultural economics, development studies), with proven skills in socio-economic assessments, and ideally with a focus or component on technologies and climate change adaptation in developing countries.

Strong oral and written English communication skills are essential. Experience from working in a developing country is an asset. Candidates will be expected to demonstrate the ability to work independently, to plan and carry out independent research, including field work in developing countries. Candidates are expected to have a high degree of self-motivation, leading their research project with the support of supervisors.

Project environment and research Group
The successful candidate will join an international team of about 70 professionals in an interdisciplinary work environment, with a broad portfolio of activities and an extensive network of professional contacts to research and government institutions in developing countries as well as the UN system. 

Approval and Enrolment
The scholarship for the PhD degree are subject to academic approval, and the candidates will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes of DTU. For information about the general requirements for enrolment and the general planning of the scholarship studies, please see the DTU PhD Guide

The PhD student will be selected through a competitive application process. Online applications will be screened against a set of criteria and a shortlist of candidates will be invited to an interview and to present their project proposals (via skype if based abroad). The assessment process and final selection will be made by the project supervisor in collaboration with an assessment committee. 

We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and an academic freedom tempered by responsibility.

Salary and appointment terms
The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years.

The place of employment is the Centre on Energy, Climate and Sustainable Development of the UNEP DTU Partnership, located at the UN City in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

Further information
The project supervisor, Sara Traerup,, can be contacted directly to answer any specific questions. 

Please submit your online application no later than April 30, 2018 (local time). Applications must be submitted as one pdf file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online," fill in the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one pdf file. The file must include:   

  • A letter of motivation (cover letter)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma
  • Excel sheet with translation of grades to the Danish grading system (see guidelines and excel spreadsheet here)
  • Project proposal, including background, rationale, methodological approach, case study ideas (max 6 pages)

Candidates may apply prior to obtaining their master's degree, but cannot begin before having received it. The aim is to start the study in summer 2018. 

Applications and enclosures received after the deadline will not be considered.

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

DTU is a technical university providing internationally leading research, education, innovation and scientific advice. Our staff of 5,800 advance science and technology to create innovative solutions that meet the demands of society; and our 11,000 students are being educated to address the technological challenges of the future. DTU is an independent academic university collaborating globally with business, industry, government, and public agencies.