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EJRU news: PhD success, book launches and a new multidisciplinary collaboration

2 February 2021
The front cover of Dr Daniel Newman's new book on Sustainable Consumption.
The front cover of Dr Daniel Newman's new book on Sustainable Consumption.

Despite the challenges of the past year, there have been important successes for EJRU members. The successful thesis submission of three PhD students has been one of the highlights of the year. It is hard to imagine the challenge of undertaking a viva virtually. As a supervisor, I found it difficult enough not to be there to offer support before and congratulate after, but Dr Caer Smyth and Dr Valeria Tolis took it all in their stride. Under these circumstances it makes PhD completions even more worthy of celebration.

PhD and Post-doc success

Being Reasonable: How do rationalist assumptions affect the treatment of the environment in decision-making processes?

Dr Caer Smyth successfully defended her PhD thesis on the 12th of August 2020. Caer’s thesis explores the rationalist assumptions that are present in legal decision-making processes. For this, she undertook ethnographic research at the inquiry into the M4 Corridor around Newport scheme (the M4CAN inquiry). In her thesis, Caer identifies ways in which taken for granted assumptions are embedded in how we argue, and how our legal processes are organised, which negatively impacted the treatment of the environment during the inquiry.

Caer is now a lecturer in the school, teaching modules on environmental law and justice, human rights law and legal foundations. She is also working on publishing her thesis findings. Her most recent paper, based on analysis in her thesis, has just been accepted to the Journal of Law and Society. We congratulate Caer on her successes and will be keeping our eye out for this forthcoming journal article: ‘‘Tick the box and move on’: compartmentalisation and the treatment of the environment in decision-making processes.’

The EU’s climate change mitigation action: an ongoing transition?”

Dr Valeria Tolis successfully defended her PhD on the 10th of November 2020. Valeria’s thesis developed a framework for analysing the EU’s climate change mitigation policymaking in a period that corresponds to the finalisation of the 2030 Clean energy package and the launch of the 2050 long-term decarbonization strategy.  

The aim of Valeria’s project was to reflect on the nature of the EU’s current climate mitigation action and on the possibility of “change” in relation to scientifically informed climate warnings, and urgent recommendations on departing from the business-as-usual logic. Theoretically informed by the discursive approach of Jacques Lacan, Valeria followed the work of the EU at its Brussels headquarters and at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conferences of the Parties (COPs) between 2017 and 2018. Using energy efficiency, renewableand circular economy as her case studies, Valeria concludes that except for a few potentially disruptive elements that offer the potential of paradigm change, the EU’s climate mitigation action appeared more as a fictitious change than as a real transition.

Valeria is now working as a Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations here at Cardiff, where she has been teaching across a range of modules, including comparative politics, with a focus on the politics of the EU. Valeria has also begun translating some of the main contributions of her thesis into publications

Instruments Mixes to Reduce GHG Emission from Road Passenger Transport and Stimulate Greening in Ethiopia

Mulugeta Sisay submitted his PhD thesis in October 2020 and is waiting for his final viva date. Mulugeta’s thesis explores regulatory instruments that would enable the decarbonisation of road transport in developing countries and particularly in Ethiopia. Using instrument choice and transport innovation principles, Mulugeta examined the institutional, environmental and socio-economic situation of developing countries. This made it possible for him to investigate mitigation instruments and strategies that suit these contexts in the areas of enhancing environmental efficiency of cars, enabling expansion of public transport and non-motorised transport, and leapfrogging into electromobility.

Since submitting Mulugeta has been awarded funding from the Open Society Foundation under its Civil Society Scholars Award 2021 program. In his new project, ‘Leapfrogging to low-carbon transport modes and non-motorised transport in Ethiopia’, Mulugeta aims to explore the low-carbon transport modes of non-motorised transport (walking and cycling) alongside usage of leapfrogging in climate discourses. He’ll also be looking at the regulatory instruments that would stimulate cycling and walking in the context of developing countries, with the focus again on his home country of Ethiopia. This is really important and valuable research and we are looking forward to when Mulugeta is able to share the results of his research with EJRU.

New books

Announcing other great achievements of EJRU members, Dr Jen Iris Allan’s first book has recently been published by the University of Toronto Press: The New Climate Activitism: NGO Authority and Paticipation in Climate Change Governance. We are currently in the process of organising a launch event, in the meantime, if you’d like to find out more about what motivated Jen’s research then have a read of our conversation here.

Dr Daniel Newman also has a book coming out this month, Sustainable Consumption, Production and Supply Chain Management with Edward Elgar publishing. The book, co-authored with Paul Nieuwenhuis and Anne Touboulic, brings together research in sustainable consumption and production to look at how capitalism could be better oriented to tackle pressing environmental problems. It looks at the crises caused by mass consumption and production, and the need to promote a more sustainable economic system through encouraging a wider recognition of our place in the world. We live in an era defined by over-consumption but it is not fair to just blame the people who want new stuff, this book targets the producers and supply chains and highlights their key role in the harm that our current capitalist model has wrecked on the planet. Businesses need to be encouraged to use an ecological lens and we need to view industry as operating within natural systems to tackle the worst excesses of consumer capitalism. 

Keep an eye out for our interview with Dan about his interest in sustainability and the origins of this book, which will be up on the blog very soon.

New climate cultures collaboration

For a while now I have been looking for an environmental reading group to be inspired by new directions in the study of environmental politics and to challenge the way I approach my research. Finally, I have found exactly what I have been searching for! EJRU has started a new collaboration with the Cardiff Environmental Cultures research group. Based in the School of English, the group was established as a strand of the Cardiff Science Humanities Initiative, which is an ambitious attempt to rethink the relationships and boundaries between the sciences and the humanities.

This semester the readings will be focused on ‘Decolonizing the Anthropocene’, with the first session engaging with Kathryn Yusoff’s A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None at 1:00-1:50pm on Wednesday 10th March. Please contact for details and to join the event.

We are also currently organising a new speaker series for later in the semester on Speculative Finance and Climate Change, in which we will be exploring the relationship between capitalism and climate change and the social and political implications of the neoliberalised global response.