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Financing ‘Green’ and ‘Sustainable’ Transitions

Topic description

This project would critically interrogate the rise of ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ financial instruments, with an emphasis on questions of climate justice and the intersections of ‘green’ investment and shifting patterns of development finance. Financing transitions to sustainable economies is a core objective of the Paris Agreement and is set to be a key focus of COP 26 later this year. This growing interest in ‘sustainable’ finance is driven by both the need to deliver finance for climate-friendly/green economic transitions as well as the imperative to mainstream climate and sustainability concerns into the financial system. This has resulted in the creation of markets and investor interest in ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ financial products.

This emerging area of activity is ripe for interdisciplinary inquiry. Efforts to make financial markets ‘green’ raise fundamental challenges with respect to how to reduce complex human-environment relations to measures legible to distant investors. It is not clear that profitable returns for investors are always compatible with the interests of the communities most directly affected by climate change, predominantly in poorer communities in the global south. Given the multifaceted and historically-embedded nature of vulnerability to climate change and other ecological hazards for many communities in the global south, there is a danger that some of the activities enabled emerging forms of ‘green’ finance might in fact have unintended adverse effects.

The candidate will be expected to develop their own project that will build on these themes and explore these issues through one or more in-depth case studies. The project would draw on emerging interdisciplinary perspectives on financialization, political ecology, the governance of climate change, and green finance.

Applicant profile

The candidate must be familiar with social scientific theory and methods. They should possess a good understanding of international political economy and global governance, as well as demonstrate knowledge of contemporary developments related to the operational and policy landscape of financing green and sustainable transitions.It is desirable that candidates demonstrate knowledge of international law/ regulatory regimes related to global finance, sustainable development, environmental law and governance and/or climate change law, governance and policy.

Supervisory team
Dr Nick Bernards, School for Cross-faculty Studies

Nick Bernards is Assistant Professor of Global Sustainable Development. He is an interdisciplinary political economist with relevant research interests in technological change and sustainability; financialization and development; intersections of finance, poverty, and climate adaptation.


Dr Celine Tan, School of Law

Celine Tan is Reader in Law. Her expertise is in international economic law and development with a focus on international development finance and sovereign debt. She is interested in the intersections between law and development, gender, human rights and the environment.


External Mentorship
Luiz Vieira, Bretton Woods Project

The Bretton Woods Project is a non-governmental organisation based in London which monitors and provides information and advocacy on the operations of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group and other multilateral development banks and international financial institutions. The organisation is led by Luiz Vieira.