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. 

Illustration 41933283 © Digitalstormcinema | © Digitalstormcinema |

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 safeguarding a decent life for all. 

The provision of adequate energy and environmental services is a precondition for socioeconomic development and human well-being. Yet, present energy systems face several major challenges, which need to be addressed urgently and simultaneously. These range from the lack of access to modern energy services and infrastructure in less advanced regions 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 future 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 barriers (technical, structural, behavioral, institutional) for mitigation of non-CO2 greenhouse gases (methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases) across various scales (regional, sectoral, temporal) (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 (IACC, S3).
  • 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).
  • Developing tools that help understand the importance and the feasibility of business models to improve electrification, water and irrigation access in Sub-Saharan-Africa (LEAP-RE project, IACC). 
  • Improving the representation of heterogeneity and granularity in 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 and provide people with decent living energy (TISS, S3, IACC).
  • 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 (TISS, IACC). 
  • Understanding the impacts of climate change on the energy system, both energy supply and demand, 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 climate mitigation.  
  • Investigating how climate impacts will affect different parts of the population, including coping capacity, multi-dimensional vulnerabilities and sectoral adaptation responses.
  • 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 (TISS, S3).
  • 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 the equity and justice dimensions of specific energy and climate policies and transition pathways (TISS).
  • 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 on 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. Caroline Zimm or Dr. Adriana Gomez Sanabria  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.