YSSP Opportunities in the ECE Program

The overall objective of the Energy, Climate, and Environment (ECE) Program is to provide evidence-based, scientific roadmaps for feasible systems transformations that simultaneously meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ambitious climate change mitigation targets. 

Photo 92638072 / People © Boarding1now | Dreamstime.com

Photo 92638072 / People © Boarding1now | Dreamstime.com

The research agenda focuses on understanding the nature and implications of future energy and economy transitions, and analyzing strategies to protect the local, regional and global atmosphere, human health and the environment while imposing least burden on economic development. 

The provision of adequate energy and environmental services is a precondition for socioeconomic development and human well-being. Yet, present energy systems face a number of major challenges, which need to be addressed urgently and simultaneously. These range from the lack of access to modern energy in impoverished parts of the world to environmental problems of climate change and air pollution as well as concerns with respect to security and resilience of present systems. The systematic assessment of the economic and environmental synergies between air pollution control and mitigation of global warming could point the way towards effective and viable approaches for attaining sustainability objectives and maintaining economic prosperity. 

Taking a system’s perspective, the ECE Program has pioneered the application of new methodologies in the areas of integrated assessment, spatial and behavioral heterogeneity, multi-criteria analysis, technology assessments, emissions impacts over atmospheric interaction, health, and the natural environment, exploring uncertainty and risk analysis. These methodologies are used in systematic and holistic policy-scenario studies to assess the costs and benefits of the energy and societal transformations. 

ECE's research activities combine solution-oriented and policy-relevant research with exploratory and empirical analysis. The main areas of research comprise: 

YSSP applications should be related to at least one of these fields. More specifically, ECE is looking for YSSP applicants interested in working on the following topics:   

  • Analyzing the linkages (including synergies and trade-offs) between energy and climate policy objectives, such as GHG mitigation and energy security, and broader sustainable development goals, such as alleviating energy poverty, improving air quality, maintaining food security, ensuring water availability, and increasing resilience to climate variability. Of high interest is how these complex relationships play out at different regional scales, from global to local. 
  • Addressing interactions between air pollution at various scales (global, regional, urban/rural) to examine interdependencies between pollution, health, ecosystems and other co-benefits for SDGs. (PM
  • Applying systems perspectives to study environmental feedbacks of demand and supply interventions, nutrient and material cycling (nitrogen, metals, plastic), the mitigation opportunities in the non-energy sectors (agriculture, waste, industrial process), as well social inequalities. (PM
  • Exploring the future role of transformative solutions for mitigating climate change and how to transition to a net-zero emissions society, including the policy incentives and investments to achieve these goals.  This includes negative emissions technologies (e.g. Bioenergy+CCS) and extends further to exploring game-changing societal trends and innovations that lead to fundamental transformations of demand, lifestyles and behavioral changes. (IACCS3
  • In conjunction with the Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program, modeling the water-energy-land nexus, including (a) assessing the impacts of bioenergy expansion on land-use and food production and (b) quantifying water use associated with future energy transitions, (c) coupled water-energy-land systems optimization modelling at the river basin scale. (IACC
  • Improving the representation and granularity of demand-side modelling in the context of integrated assessment modeling, including the roles of consumer choice and behavioral changes, and determining the energy gaps required to meet the SDGs provide people with decent living energy. (TISSS3IACC
  • Understanding policies, institutions and the political economy of sustainable energy system transitions to better represent and model the feasibility of decarbonization pathways (TISS
  • Improving the representation of spatial and socioeconomic heterogeneity in energy models as a means to, for example, refine resource supply curves, quantify regional infrastructure requirements, and better understand energy demand and affordability across diverse socioeconomic groups. (IACC
  • Understanding the impacts of climate change on the energy system, both energy supply and demand, and considering both extreme events and long-term gradual changes. Furthermore, making stylized representation of these impacts in integrated assessment models and understanding the avoided impacts of decarbonization. 
  • Exploring the prevalence and consequences of historical energy industry contractions in order to understand the feasibility as well as the social and political implications of the fossil fuel phase-out needed under the Paris climate target. (TISSS3
  • Research on the expansion, extension or evaluation of the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs). These new common scenarios increasingly used across the climate change research community. Research can focus on expanding the scenarios to yet uncovered domains, extensions into different sectors, or evaluation of the use of SSPs in research projects.  
  • Exploring the role of the finance sector in energy transitions and summarizing the results of energy transition scenarios for the financial sector. (S3

This list is not meant to be exhaustive and applicants are encouraged to suggest other research topics for the YSSP that fit into the ECE Program’s research agenda. 

The MESSAGE model and the GAINS model stand at the core of ECE’s modeling framework - developed respectively for medium- to long-term energy system planning, energy policy analysis, and for studying the whole impact pathway chain from emissions over atmospheric interaction, transmission, deposition and exposure to impacts on human health, the natural environment and the climate. 

For candidates interested in applying to be a YSSP in the ECE Program, please read all the information, the conditions and eligibility and the FAQs. Furthermore, familiarize yourself with recent publications from the group to help guide your proposal development. 

If you have further questions or are unsure who would be a suitable supervisor, please contact Dr Adriano Vinca or Dr Peter Rafaj in the first instance with: 

  • your CV 
  • either a proposal abstract, or as a minimum bullet points on proposed research topic and how it aligns with ECE Program activities. 

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Last edited: 06 October 2021


Peter Rafaj

Senior Research Scholar Pollution Management Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

Senior Research Scholar Integrated Assessment and Climate Change Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

T +43(0) 2236 807 332

Adriano Vinca

Researcher Transformative Institutional and Social Solutions Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

Researcher Integrated Assessment and Climate Change Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

T +43(0) 2236 807 596

YSSP Publications


Hunt, J. , Nascimento, A., Schwengber ten Caten, C., Caputo Tomé, F.M., Schneider, P.S., Ribeiro Thomazoni, A.L., José de Castro, N., Brandão, R., et al. (2022). Energy crisis in Brazil: Impact of hydropower reservoir level on the river flow. Energy 239, e121927. 10.1016/j.energy.2021.121927.

Rivas-Tabares, D., Tarquis, A.M., De Miguel, Á., Gobin, A., & Willaarts, B. (2022). Enhancing LULC scenarios impact assessment in hydrological dynamics using participatory mapping protocols in semiarid regions. Science of the Total Environment 803, e149906. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.149906.

Komendantova, N. , Neumueller, S., & Nkoana, E. (2022). Co-creating Policies on Societal Transformations as a Factor of Resilience of Modern Society. In: Energy Transition in the Baltic Sea Region: Understanding Stakeholder Engagement and Community Acceptance. Eds. Karimi, F. & Rodi, M., Routledge. ISBN 9781032003085

Zimm, C. & Nakicenovic, N. (2022). What are the implications of the Paris Agreement for inequality? In: Making Climate Action More Effective: Lessons Learned from the First Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Eds. Pauw, W.P. & Klein, R.J.T., Routledge. ISBN 9780367754082

Guillaumot, L. , Marçais, J., Vautier, C., Guillou, A., Vergnaud, V., Bouchez, C., Dupas, R., Durand, P., et al. (2021). A hillslope-scale aquifer-model to determine past agricultural legacy and future nitrate concentrations in rivers. Science of the Total Environment 800, e149216. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.149216.

Mendoza Ponce, A. , Corona-Núñez, R.O., Nava, L.F. , Estrada, F., Calderón-Bustamante, O., Martínez-Meyer, E., Carabias, J., Larralde-Corona, A.H., et al. (2021). Impacts of land management and climate change in a developing and socioenvironmental challenging transboundary region. Journal of Environmental Management 300, e113748. 10.1016/j.jenvman.2021.113748.

Hlásny, T., Augustynczik, A., & Dobor, L. (2021). Time matters: Resilience of a post-disturbance forest landscape. Science of the Total Environment 799, e149377. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.149377.

Carr, T.W., Balkovič, J. , Dodds, P.E., Folberth, C. , & Skalský, R. (2021). The impact of water erosion on global maize and wheat productivity. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 322, e107655. 10.1016/j.agee.2021.107655.

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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