ESR 13:
Land use impacts of the clean development mechanism in a telecoupled world

Home Institution: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Spain
Principal Supervisor: Dr. Esteve Corbera
Co-Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ole Mertz
Application date: 16/10/2017-24/11/2017
Starting date: 01/07/2018 or earlier
Duration: 3 years


Climate change has been considered one of the most challenging environmental problems of our time. Decisions adopted at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its ensuing treaty and accord, i.e. the Kyoto Protocol (1997) and the Paris Agreement (2015), have resulted in the implementation worldwide –to a more or less extent- of a suite of policies to halt greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the impacts of this global phenomenon. In this context, responses such as the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) or the more recent REDD+ framework have aimed to reduce energy-related emissions and incentivize sustainable land use governance through carbon markets in the global South. The direct and indirect consequences of CDM and REDD+ activities on social-ecological systems are yet to be fully understood.

Against this background, this ESR position will:

  • Study four comparable CDM forestry projects –potentially in Colombia and Uganda- to evaluate the resulting land-use changes in terms of their extent and management using forest cover/growth data and changes in ecosystem services as indicators,
  • Examine the social outcomes of the projects (income, social capital, forest management knowledge, etc.), and
  • Analyse the discursive and financial flows that have eased (or undermined) project development, and trace these to European policy decisions using secondary data on CDM decisions and funding and in situ data collection including questionnaires and interviews with project stakeholders.

In doing so, the ESR position will create knowledge and data on the additionality and environmental impacts of carbon forestry projects, evidence on land-use spill-over effects at project and regional level, and develop recommendations for CDM (and for future REDD+ projects) on how to ensure environmental and social effectiveness while avoiding undesirable spill-overs.

The ESR will be jointly supervised by Dr Esteve Corbera (Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, UAB) and Prof. Ole Mertz (Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen). Two secondments will take place: at the University of Copenhagen, to develop methodologies for land-use change detection through access to remote sensing imagery, technical supervision and analyses of large databases of processed Landsat data, and at the World Bank to collect data for analysing policy approaches and financial flows related to CDM projects.


The UAB is one of the largest and highest ranked public universities in Spain. ICTA, in turn, is an internationally renowned institute with a solid record in coordinating and managing large European, international and Spanish research projects focused on the study of pressing environmental problems, of both global and local concern. The institute hosts a team of more than 60 internationally highly regarded specialists in natural and social sciences and engineering, of which 25 are full-time senior researchers, including four ERC grantees and other selective fellowship programmes. ICTA has also been accredited as a ‘María de Maeztu Unit of Excellence in 2015’, which is the highest institutional recognition of scientific research granted by the Spanish government.

We seek

A candidate with an above-average MSc (or equivalent degree) in Environmental Science, Geography, Ecology, Conservation Science, or related fields. We expect a strong interest in climate change and forest conservation issues, land system science, and sustainability problems. Required skills include a sound background in land-use science, climate change policy, political ecology of forest conservation, advanced knowledge in geographic information systems and spatial statistics, and experience with social science qualitative research methods. Spanish and English language proficiency and experience working/researching in rural contexts of Latin America and Africa are desirable.

ESRs hosted at UAB must register to the University’s PhD Programme in Environmental Science and Technology and follow the programme’s rules. This means for example that ESRs research progress will be annually assessed by their supervisors -through a written report- and by an independent committee of three UAB members, who consider the supervisors’ report and a presentation by the student. ESRs are allowed to continue in the programme if such annual assessments are positive and for a maximum of five years if their dedication to the PhD is full-time over the study period.


Dr Esteve Corbera


Do you consider applying?

In any case please check the eligibility criteria in the first place.

To submit your application, please fill in the requested data in the online application form, upload your application file and submit your application.

Download and carefully read the Guide for Applicants and the ITN Programme’s information note for all specific information on the application and selection procedure.