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Centre for Sustainable Development Studies

Our researchers investigate the various ways social sciences, and the interdisciplinary work, contribute to a sustainable world. Read more about the aims, teams and outcomes of our research projects.

  • CLIFF | Climate change, financial coherence and leaving fossil fuels underground in the changing north-south context

    To combat global warming, we have to stop using fossil fuels. This will have a major impact on both investors in related industries who will have to write off trillions of dollars and developing countries that had hoped to use the fossil fuel industry to drive economic growth. This project looks into the roles of the various different stakeholders and develops tools to help them all move towards climate-resilient change and inclusive development.

    We argue that to halt climate change, the 2015 Paris Agreement implicitly requires leaving fossil fuels (FF) underground (LFFU) and coherent financial flows. This implies stranding huge amounts of FF resources and assets (worth $16-300 trillion), affecting big investors: FF firms, shareholders (pension funds/philanthropies), debt financers (aid agencies/development banks) and governments. Research is scarce on big investors, the implications for developing countries with FF resources, and how LFFU can be equitably mobilized.

    CLIFF combines institutional analysis and a theory of change for inclusive development (ICID) using a transdisciplinary, comparative case study approach. CLIFF will prepare an Interactive Atlas, and a Stranded Asset Index, co-create equitable policy instruments and assess strategies of agents of change to make such climate policy instruments politically feasible and effective. Rather than ‘Building Back Better’ from the COVID-19 pandemic, CLIFF strives for Catalysing Climate-resilient Change.

    Case studies

    CLIFF is using a transdisciplinary, comparative case study approach and has identified nine countries/regions within which these financial actors operate. From the industrialized world, CLIFF will examine the EU, UK, US and Canada; from the G77 & China: Brazil, South Africa, India and China; the BASIC countries; and possibly Saudi Arabia. These countries are selected since they are dominant players in financial flows and investments in FF, and have a strong potential blocking or promoting role in LFFU. In addition, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique will be studied as LMICs that are developing themselves as FF producers.

    CLIFF is funded by the European Research Council and runs for a period of five years (Nov 2021- Nov 2026).

    Know the project team

    Principal investigator

    Joyeeta Gupta


    Global Inventory of FF and Financial Flows
    (to be appointed)


    • Augusto Heras | Focuses on Low- & Middle-Income Countries
    • Frank de Morrée | His work relates to Philanthropic Foundations
    • (Ja)Nina Herzog-Hawelka | Her research deals with Fossil Fuel Firms
    • Moataz Yakan Talaat | His work relates to Debt Financiers
    • Clara McDonnell | Her research focuses on Pension Funds

    Master Students

    Together they work as a team on comparative and integrative research to ensure that the sum of all projects is significantly more than the sum of the individual work of each researcher.

    • Inès Boivin, Claire Boogard, Thomas Cordes, Giuliana Gentile, Lynn Haasloop-Werner, Robin Hids, Juliette Linn, Marc Olsen, Vivien Schüßler, Gabriela Zuntová, Quynh Anh Chu, Glenn Dijks, Ben Kapadia, Blanca Reemst, Marika Schmitz, Ellen Snaathorst, Phani Varnava, Elise Granlie, Ingrid Ronglan, Janne Piper.
  • COLANDS | Collaborating on the Operationalization of Landscape Approaches or Nature, Development and Sustainability

    This project comprises 4 PhD trajectories that form part of the broader IKI-funded COLANDS project led by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Bogor, Indonesia. The COLANDS project as a whole aims to address persistent gaps between strong scientific theory and weak implementation by operationalizing an integrated landscape approach in Ghana, Indonesia and Zambia.

    Through the application of the ten landscape approach principles, the project will facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogue to benefit actors across multiple sectors and decision-making scales, while simultaneously raising awareness of the value of biological diversity in complex multi-functional landscapes to inform national sector policies related to biodiversity and climate change. The project will enhance the capacity of stakeholders engaged in the target landscapes to better identify trade-offs and synergies amongst competing objectives, including food security. In doing so, the project will contribute to existing knowledge on landscape approach effectiveness, improve capacity for implementation, enhance landscape sustainability, empower marginalized groups to more effectively participate in decision-making dialogues, and through the Global Landscape Forum (GLF) feed into global landscape discourses.


    PhD candidates

    • C.A.M. (Augusta) Anandi | Augusta Anandi focuses on customary governance arrangements as entry points for the implementation of landscape approaches.
    • E.R.C. (Eric) Bayala | Eric Bayala works on the potential role of Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs) in Ghana in integrated landscape governance
    • F.S. (Freddie) Siangulube | Freddie Siangulube focuses on multi-stakeholder platforms in Zambia
    • M.P. (Malaika) Yanou | Malaika Yanou on the role of indigenous and traditional knowledge in knowledge co-production for integrated landscape governance in Zambia