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  One Hour Region : Driving Back Overshoot at the Regional Scale

   School of Biological & Environmental Sciences

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  Prof A N Tyler, Dr Elise Cartmell, Dr Scot Mathieson, Dr Mathis Wackernagel  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


The drive to net zero and beyond is a widely established ambition across the UK’s policy landscape, yet a framework against which to drive change and measure progress has yet to be established. To achieve this ambition, our economies need to fit within the regenerative budget of our planet's ecosystems. This fundamentally requires us to move away from a fossil carbon economy and not shift the pressure elsewhere. 

This approach is measurable. Developed by Global Footprint Network, Earth Overshoot Day provides a powerful annual benchmark that marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate that year.  The overshoot calculation can be scaled to an individual country, region, city or human activity. The calculation is a balance between the amount of biologically productive assets or Biocapacity with the demand for those biological assets or Ecological Footprint. When the Ecological Footprint exceeds Biocapacity, the planet, region, city or organisation runs an ecological deficit.   Ecological deficit can be measured as overshoot and provides a framework against which to: i) measure progress towards resource and climate neutrality; ii) provide a framework to drive decision-making towards choosing assets that will operate more effectively in a future of climate change and resource constraints; and iii) inspire collective engagement and adoption to scale up action that pushes back the date on which annual overshoot occurs.  

The focus for this PhD is to identify opportunities that are economically superior or advantageous to push back overshoot. 

Novel Approach:

This PhD will build on the Hydro Nation Chair programme, and opportunities within Forth-ERA digital water observatory, planned developments in resource recovery and circular economy in the Forth catchment as a testbed for a new approach.  

For many organisations, the ambition and moral imperative to deliver on net zero is clear, while delivery remains problematic.  The challenge remains in part due to the difficulty in measuring the transition and resulting benefit, but also the palatable nature of a move to a long-term sustainable economy without massively reducing resource throughput.  However, economic assets that retain value, deliver profit and at the same time reduce overshoot will be needed more in the future with increasing climate change and resource constraints.  These assets are likely to remain the most valuable, which is the premise behind the one-hour region.   

Our approach will build a digital framework to estimate biocapacity at the Firth of Forth catchment scale and ecological footprint that is dynamic and responsive to change occurring within the catchment (e.g. land use change including reforestation and the implementation of nature-based solutions) and net zero interventions within Scottish Water, its partners and its supply chain. Whilst there is an imperative to deliver on net zero, this PhD will explore: 

(i) which solutions are economically superior; 

(ii) the potential and impact of delivering these solutions; and 

(iii) how we make this approach palatable to drive change.  

This approach will help to identify and prioritise interventions to accelerate the route to net zero.     

Key research question

What (public and private) opportunities exist in Scotland for producing economic value while also reducing global overshoot?

·      What is their economic performance compared to conventional projects that do not reduce global overshoot? 

·      What activities are particularly relevant for “Scottish Water” domain? 

·      How much global overshoot could such projects shave off?

·      How can Scottish Water work with policy makers, regulators, customers and supply chain to make the one hour approach an attractive proposition to take it on?


Components to the research include:

·      engaging with and empowering businesses to develop and adopt approaches that reduce their ecological footprint and protect and enhance biocapacity, by

·      recommending the processes, levers and partnerships needed to deliver improvements, and 

·      analysing acceptability, blockers and solutions to the adoption of such opportunities

We anticipate that the project will focus on working with key stakeholders and facilitate workshops to identify: (i) opportunities to disrupt current practice; and (ii) highlight opportunities, and societal, environmental and economic benefits of the net zero agenda.  The PhD  will establish the baseline by identifying overshoot times for the region (overall and the water system) and the options and scale of action needed to move overshoots back by one hour.


This PhD project will be embedded within the Hydro Nation Chair programme, working in close partnership with Scottish Water (co-funder) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to develop a One Hour Region approach (based on the Upper Forth Catchment), which can be used by Scottish Water and others.

Why you should apply for this PhD

The successful candidate will:

·      be embedded within the Hydro Nation Chair programme, working in close partnership with Scottish Water (co-funder) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to develop a One Hour Region approach (based on the Upper Forth Catchment)

·      work with Scotland’s International Environment Centre, a £22 million Stirling and Clackmannanshire City and Region Deal investment in a new centre with a primary focus to drive the just transition to a net zero society

·      collaborate with the influential and world-leading Global Footprint Network and the creator of the Ecological Footprint approach

·      develop skills and experience that are transferable globally and deployable from organisational to national and international scales



Applicants must meet the following criteria

·      a good first degree and or a Master’s degree (or overseas equivalent)

  • a demonstratable interest in the topic under investigation
  • a numerate background with either engineering, environmental, management/economic perspectives  

Applicants with relevant work experience and skills in facilitating workshops are also encouraged to apply 

Business & Management (5) Engineering (12) Environmental Sciences (13) Geography (17) Politics & Government (30)

Funding Notes

This is a fully funded PhD project through the Hydro Nation Chair programme. Funding is available with immediate effect and is funded for three years and includes UK/home tuition fees. The enhanced stipend for 2024/25 is £20,996. We welcome international candidates, although we would have to explore the additional funding requirements on a case-by-case basis only.


Alessandro Galli, Marta Antonelli, Leopold Wambersie, Anna Bach-Faig, Fabio Bartolini, Dario Caro, Katsunori Iha, David Lin, Maria Serena Mancini, Roberta Sonnino, Davy Vanham, and Mathis Wackernagel, 2023. “EU-27 Ecological Footprint was primarily driven by food consumption and exceeded regional biocapacity from 2004 to 2014” Nature Food.
Fatemi M, Rezaei-Moghaddam K, Karami E, Hayati D, Wackernagel M (2021) An integrated approach of Ecological Footprint (EF) and Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) in human ecology: A base for planning toward sustainability. PLoS ONE 16(4): e0250167.
Horsburgh N, Tyler A, Mathieson S, Wackernagel M & Lin D (2022) Biocapacity and cost-effectiveness benefits of increased peatland restoration in Scotland. Journal of Environmental Management, 306, Art. No.: 114486.
Wackernagel, Mathis, Laurel Hanscom, Priyangi Jayasinghe, David Lin, Adeline Murthy, Evan Neill, Peter Raven, 2021. “The Importance of Resource Security for Poverty Eradication.” Nature Sustainability

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