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Global Environmental Challenges: Exploring and Developing Inter-Disciplinary Responses Through Sustainability Transformations and the Rule of Law (Advert Reference: RDF22/BL/LAW/GILL)

   Faculty of Business and Law

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  Prof G Gill  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Climate change, loss of biological diversity, and land degradation are not only imminent challenges to the environment but also create severe risk and uncertainty for human well-being and economies. There is an urgent need to address these global challenges due to earth’s environmental crisis and its capacity to sustain human well-being. This has resulted in a clarion wake-up call to re-think our lifestyles, current production modes and consumption patterns.

 In this context, ‘transformations towards sustainability’ move to centre-stage and are increasingly institutionalised within global scientific and policy discourses. The 2021 United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP) Report states that system-wide transformation is the key to a sustainable future and ‘will involve a fundamental change in the technological, economic and social organization of society, including world views, norms, values and governance’. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as envisaged under the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Agenda envision transformation towards a better and sustainable future for everyone. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Reports also call for innovative long-term transformations that are needed to move towards sustainability.

Sustainability transformations involve reorientation and restructuring of governance processes and actions to address a range of environmental sustainability challenges including climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation. Governance, operating at multi-levels, involving multiple actors, includes structures and processes for policy and decision-making, exercising responsibility and ensuring accountability. Consequently, robust laws and legal institutions as strategic governance mechanisms can steer a transformative process for a sustainable future. The implementation, development and enforcement of environmental laws, and promotion of a sustainability agenda underpinned by the rule of law can help effect transformational change.

This call invites applicants to engage with the question how law and legal institutions can act as levers of transformations thereby advancing the environmental rule of law for a sustainable future. Identifying and analysing policies, juristic and scientific interventions and providing responses through sustainability transformations discourse would offer legitimacy, sustainability progress and support for the SDGs. The topic encourages applicants, particularly from (or with a knowledge of) the global south, to consider comparative, inter-disciplinary, national or thematic-case studies that reflect and illustrate these key research themes. Applicants are required to demonstrate their awareness of relevant literature, key legal documents and indicate how they might address the key research issues identified through the framing and testing a set of research questions.

This PhD is linked to one of the six multi-disciplinary research themes at Northumbria University: Global Development Futures, and to the Environmental Governance and Sustainable Development Research Interest Group within the Law School.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. (Advert Reference: RDF22/BL/LAW/GILL) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 18 February 2022

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

Principal Supervisor - Professor Gita Gill

Funding Notes

Each studentship supports a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2021/22 full-time study this is £15,609 per year) and full tuition fees. UK and international (including EU) candidates may apply.
Studentships are available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £9,365 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities.
Please also read the full funding notes which include advice for international and part-time applicants.


1. Sustainability transformations, environmental rule of law, and the Indian judiciary: connecting the dots through climate change litigation’ (in-press) Environmental Law Review 2021 Vol 3
2. Biodiversity and the Indian Judiciary: Tracing the Trajectory’ BRICS Law Journal 2021 8(2) 10-40 (Special Issue)
3. ‘Just Sustainabilities and Sustainable Development Goals in the time of Covid-19’, Law, Environment and Development Journal (2020) 16/0 pp 63-85
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