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Citizens, environmental sustainability and local democracy: putting people’s voices at the centre of local government carbon neutral action plans

  • School: School of Social Sciences
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2023
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2023

Project ID: S3 28

Background and context

Climate change has prompted a global surge in environmental activism (Fisher 2019; Wahlström et al. 2019). Responding to such protests, many national governments have been conspicuously eager to engage with activists like Greta Thunberg to set carbon emission reduction targets. Additionally, such protests also transformed international conversations at important UN climate negotiations in the run-up to the 2021 COP26 Climate Conference (Henn, Sloam and Nunes 2021).

Research aims

Although such climate-focused citizen/elite engagement is evident at national and international levels, there is an absence of empirical evidence of local level interactions between individual citizens and powerholders.  The proposed research aims to deliver an ‘impact’ project that will be co-produced with British local authorities that strengthens citizens’ role in designing local policies to combat climate change. It will build on recent research conducted by Professor Matt Henn, the lead supervisor,  that considers how to engage citizens in climate-related local policymaking so that they feel they have influence over the policy process and become part of the solution to the climate crisis (Henn and Arya 2021).

We invite candidates to develop a research proposal that reflects their own strengths and interests within the context of the following project aims:

  • review existing practice on citizen engagement in local climate policy/carbon neutrality
  • conduct impact research on the engagement of citizens as co-producers of local climate-related policy;
  • develop research collaborations with selected British local authorities on policies aimed at achieving inclusive carbon neutrality targets;
  • design a model (toolkit) of citizen engagement in local climate policy/carbon neutrality which can be adapted to and promoted in other localities.

Research Design

It is expected that the successful candidate will:

  1. engage with related concepts such as ‘civic engagement’, ‘participatory governance’ and ‘participatory democracy’;
  1. devise a research plan that will identify a selection of local authorities to consider how they are engaging citizens in their climate-related policymaking.

The nature of the research is such that either quantitative or qualitative methods, or a combination of different approaches (online or in-person), will be possible. As part of their research proposal, applicants are asked to prepare a fully justified research design section that outlines proposed methods of data collection to capture lay participants’ lived experience of these processes.

The supervisory Team:

Director of Studies – Professor Matt Henn

Co-supervisors – Dr Eva Zemandl and Dr Ana Nunes

External supervisor - Chris Common (Carbon Neutral Policy Manager, Nottingham City Council)

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

To make an application, please visit our studentship application page.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2023 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Application guidance can be found on our studentship application page.

Still need help?

+44 (0)115 941 8418