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Governance of energy and transport infrastructures and services for wellbeing and planetary boundaries


   Faculty of Environment

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  Dr Milena Buchs  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project examines advantages and disadvantages of governance options of universal basic services for domestic energy and public transport. Please also see further details for the application process at https://phd.leeds.ac.uk/project/1197-governance-of-energy-and-transport-infrastructures-and-services-for-wellbeing-and-planetary-boundaries.

Background: Literature on just transitions highlights that net zero climate policies need to address environmental and social objectives simultaneously to ensure social justice, public support, and environmental effectiveness. To address both social and environmental objectives, proposals have been made for green universal basic services, e.g. the provision of basic amounts of free electricity and public transport, with the aim to reduce emissions and improve social wellbeing (Buchs, 2021; Buchs et al., 2021; Coote, 2021). However, it remains unclear how the provision of basic services could be designed, and how underlying energy and public transport infrastructures should be governed, to maximise environmental and social objectives. In addition, little is known about political and public acceptance of green basic services. Several options exist for the provision of basic energy and transport services, e.g. schemes could cover the whole population or target disadvantaged groups. These options will have different distributional impacts, levels of uptake, and administrative costs. Likewise, several options exist regarding the governance of energy and public transport infrastructures, including investment, ownership, market structure, and decision-making models, with varying degrees of citizen participation and democratic accountability. More needs to be known about the advantages and disadvantages of different governance options for achieving social and environmental objectives. Finally, levels and factors for public and political acceptance of universal basic energy and transport services and infrastructure governance require new research: how much support is there for these options, by which social or political groups and why? The PhD research will aim to identify actionable policy recommendations from the findings to maximise impact.

Research objectives: This PhD project will address three main questions: 1) What are the advantages and disadvantages of different design options for the provision of universal basic services for energy and public transport based on criteria of needs satisfaction, fairness and the achievement of climate targets? 2) What are the advantages and disadvantages of governance options for energy and public transport infrastructures in relation to investment, ownership, market structure, and decision-making models, and based on criteria of needs satisfaction, fairness and the achievement of climate targets? 3) What are drivers and barriers of public and political support for different design options of universal basic energy and public transport services?

Methods: This project will utilise mixed methods, including in-depth case studies, semi-structured interviews and surveys. Research for Q1 will establish a database of existing basic energy and public transport service schemes across Europe. Qualitative interviews with experts and practitioners from this field and in-depth case studies of existing schemes will be conducted to examine relationships between design and social and environmental outcomes. Research for Q2 will create an inventory of governance schemes for electricity generation and public transport infrastructures in the UK, followed by expert stakeholder interviews to examine advantages and disadvantages of different governance schemes based on criteria of needs satisfaction, fairness and achievement of climate targets. For Q3, a representative survey will be conducted to examine factors for public support for design and governance options of energy and public transport infrastructures and services. This will be complemented with qualitative interviews with a smaller sample of survey respondents, as well as with policy and practitioners representatives to gain a more in-depth understanding of drivers and barriers for support.


Funding Notes

This 3.5 years EPSRC DTP award will provide full tuition fees, a stipend at the UK research council rate (UK Sterling 15,840 for 2022/23), and a research training and support grant.

References

Büchs, M., 2021. Sustainable welfare: How do Universal Basic Income and Universal Basic Services compare? . Ecol. Econ. 189 (2021) 107152.
Büchs, M., Ivanova, O., Schnepf, S.V., 2021. Fairness, effectiveness and needs satisfaction: new options for designing climate policies. Environ. Res. Lett. 16 (2021), https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ac1082cb1081.
Coote, A., 2021. Universal basic services and sustainable consumption. Sustainability: Science, Practice, and Policy 17, 32-46.

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