Postgraduate Essay Competition

“The relationship between the environment and quality of life”

Win up to £200 and create impact beyond your research!

 The PSA Environment Specialist Group is inviting submissions of 1500-word essays on the theme “The relationship between the environment and quality of life”.

This should be understood as a broad topic – your essay can focus on any area of environmental politics research or personal reflection, whether philosophically, theoretically, empirically, or comparatively inspired; addressing the past, the present, or visions of the future; and relating to any scale and level of abstraction you like.

What can you win?

Winners will earn an immediate cash prize as well as getting a rare opportunity to produce research impact this early in your career: With the help of us from the Environment Group as well as the PSA outreach and early careers teams, you will have the chance to turn your essayideas into professional teaching materials which will be made available through the PSA and used for special taster sessions for A level students interested in studying Politics at University.

Cash prizes:

Winner – £200

Runner-up – £150

Third place – £100

All entrants will also have the chance to publish their essay in a special postgraduate series on the PSA Environment blog.

How to take part?

To take part, you must be a Masters or PhD student in Environmental Politics or a broadly related subject. Submit your essay of a maximum of 1500 words in length to psa.environment [at] by 20th November 2016, midnight UK time.

The judging panel consists of co-convenors of the Environment Group Marit Hammond and Shashi van de Graaff as well as PSA Programme Development and Outreach Officer Josh Niderost. Winners will be announced on 1st December and notified by email.

We look forward to your submissions!

Call for Papers – PSA Conference 2017

The PSA Annual Conference 2017 will be taking place in Glasgow, between the 10th and 12th of April 2017, at the Technology & Innovation Centre – University of Strathclyde. You’ll find all available information on the conference on the PSA website. Registration rates will be published at the end of October and registration opens at the end of November.

Our Group will propose up to six panels for inclusion in the conference. Each year, our panels produce fascinating and lively debates, and we’re certain that we’ll see the same again next year.

Panel and Paper Submissions

We welcome your submissions for both panels and individual papers by 5pm on Monday 10th October 2016.

The theme of the conference is ‘Politics in Interesting Times’. We will consider all panels that broadly link with the conference theme, whether through a comparative, policy, global, local, empirical or green theory lens.

If you are submitting a full panel proposal, it will need to include full details of the papers (titles, abstracts, etc) and the authors (names, email addresses, etc.). If you would like to propose a panel but are seeking additional papers to support it, just email us and we can advertise your panel on our group website, or tweet us at @psaenvironment and we’ll advertise your requests.

If you are submitting an individual paper, we can sort these papers into panels after you have submitted your paper.

The PSA is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all areas of its work. As such, all panels submitted to the annual international conference must endeavour to reflect the diversity of the profession and gender balance – we will be taking this into account when accepting proposals.

Postgrads and Undergrads

PSA Postgraduate members who have had a paper proposal accepted for the conference will be eligible to apply for the PSA’s central Postgraduate Access fund for help with conference registration and accommodation costs. Applications will open along with conference registration in late November 2016.

In addition, the Environmental Politics Group will be making a small number of travel bursaries available to its postgraduate members to help facilitate their participation in our panels. To register your interest in applying please send an email to Marit, at m.boeker [at]

For the first time a PSA Undergraduate Research Conference will take place on Thursday 13th April. Details will be made available shortly, but any members interested in organising an Environmental Politics presence at the conference are encouraged to get in touch with us.

Looking forward to seeing you at the conference!

PSA Environment Convenor Updates

Sadly we are saying goodbye to Elizabeth Bomberg as convenor of the PSA Environmental Politics group. Elizabeth was heavily instrumental in starting the group up again after several years’ hiatus and has provided fantastic leadership, dynamism and organisation, culminating in the group winning ‘PSA Specialist Group of the Year‘. Elizabeth had the following to say about her stepping-down as convenor:

“This month I’ll be stepping down from my role as co-convenor of the wonderful PSA Environmental Politics Specialist Group. I’ll of course stay very involved in the SG’s activities and events. The Group will continue to be led by a great team including Louise Maythorne (one of the original co-convenors) and Shashi van de Graaff who joined us last term as communications officer, replacing Paul Tobin.  I will be replaced by Marit Hammond from Keele University.  We’re delighted to welcome Marit who will bring to the Group energy, verve and links with other organisations including  the ECPR.   A big thanks to Marit for stepping up to the plate, for Shashi and Louise for carrying on their roles, and to all the members of Group for making it such an exciting, interactive and dynamic group.  See you in Glasgow if not before!”

I am sure all of our members’ will join in our thanks for all she has done and look forward to seeing her at future events!

boekerElizabeth is replaced by Marit Hammond. Marit is a Lecturer in Politics at Keele University. She is also a Co-Investigator at the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP), a five-year ESRC-funded research project across seven universities and several outside partners led by the University of Surrey. Her research interests include deliberative democracy, culture and democracy, sustainability governance and environmental politics. Recent work has appeared in Contemporary Political Theory, Democratization, Policy Sciences, Representation and Constellations.

Finally, Louise Maythorne, gave birth to a baby girl in July and is taking a back seat from PSA business for a little while, but looks forward to seeing everyone again in Glasgow.

What does Brexit mean for the UK’s environment?

by Dr Charlotte Burns, University of York, Dr Viviane Gravey, and Professor Andy Jordan, University of East Anglia. 

On 24 June the UK awoke to discover that it had voted by a margin of 4% to leave the European Union (EU). Immediate concern will focus upon the stock market and the value of the pound. However, there will also be important implications for the environment, which barely featured at all in the increasingly acrimonious campaign. In the short term the vote will trigger a request from the UK government to invoke Article 50 of the Treaties on European Union (TEU) for the UK to withdraw.  When this will happen is a matter of much debate since Prime Minister Cameron announced his resignation and called for a delay in triggering negotiations until October. When it is eventually triggered, Article 50 allows for a two-year period during which the remaining EU states negotiate an exit settlement (without the UK being present in the room) that they will present to the UK on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. There is scope to extend the withdrawal period, but only by mutual consent.

 Assuming that UK policy-makers are able to agree on the broad direction they wish to take, they will select from two main options: to join the European Economic Area (EEA) like Norway (the ‘Norwegian Option’); or to pursue an independent free trade relationship with the EU and the rest of the world (the so-called ‘Free Trade Option’). It is uncertain which will be pursued – the Leave campaign seems to prefer the latter option, and for many the Norwegian option is unpalatable. But what are the broad implications of each for the environment?

 The Norwegian Option

Under the Norwegian option the vast majority of EU rules and regulations will remain in place and business will continue as usual, with one major difference – the UK will no longer have an active input into shaping EU decisions.  It will become a policy taker rather than a policy maker. The UK government has enjoyed the right to implement higher environmental standards as an EU member and that right will be retained under this option. However, as a policy taker the UK will have no ability to weaken EU rules.  In an area such as REACH, where the UK government has been pressing for less stringent rules, the UK will lose its ability to shape policy.

 Moreover, whilst EU rules and regulations will generally continue to apply in the UK, under this option there are some notable environmental exceptions. The habitats and birds directives, which have been widely recognised as protecting the UK’s most precious flora and fauna are not covered by the EEA agreement and will therefore cease to apply. Key figures from the ‘Brexit’ camp have made clear their commitment to roll back wildlife regulations so it seems likely that the current protections will be weakened. The bathing water directive, which has played a key role in transforming the UK’s reputation from being the ‘dirty man of Europe’, will also cease to apply. Whilst it seems unlikely that the British public will accept a return to sewage-strewn beaches, maintaining high levels of protection may become an issue for future NGO campaigning, especially in view of the UK’s on-going struggle to meet the EU’s ambitious new standards.

On climate change the UK currently participates in effort-sharing to meet the EU’s greenhouse gas goals but again this legislation will no longer apply, raising questions about both the UK’s longer term climate strategy and the ways in which remaining EU states reach their allocated targets. It seems likely that whilst the UK will gain the right to negotiate separately from the EU in climate negotiations that it will nevertheless follow the EU’s lead, as other EEA states currently do.

Some environmentalists will rejoice when they discover that the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will no longer apply in this option. On fisheries it is inevitable that the UK will have to negotiate a replacement set of agreements due to overlapping fishing grounds with neighbouring states. Expert analyses suggest that the impact of Brexit will be broadly neutral but there will have to be long and complex negotiations to put in place an alternative set of arrangements (albeit ones that are likely to be very similar to the CFP). As for replacing the CAP, there is the possibility of a good deal of uncertainty about what kind of package will be offered to farmers, and the extent to which existing agri-environmental measures will be retained. The fate of Scotland in particular will continue to be a source of debate, which throws the future shape of UK agricultural policies into even greater doubt.

The Free Trade Option

Under the free trade option, which seems to be the preferred model for the Leave camp, the UK, like many non-EU states, will have to maintain a host of EU standards in order to access the Single European Market, but again as a less influential policy taker.  Whilst as an EU member the UK enjoys the right to implement higher environment standards, under this option there will also be scope for the UK government to implement lower environmental standards. It became clear as the campaign wore on that leading Brexit campaigners do want to scrap key EU regulations.

As under the Norwegian option, the UK will regain the right to negotiate its own international environmental agreements, but yet again it seems likely to follow the EU’s lead, unless, that is, a radical dismantling of national policies is foreseen. Of particular note here is the likely impact of a Brexit upon the EU’s position on climate change – the UK has played a leading role in developing and pushing the climate change agenda at the European level. The leadership role played by the EU is potentially at risk without the UK there to act as a counterweight to the more climate-sceptic governments in Council. Even the chief UN negotiator has suggested that Brexit could put the Paris agreement at risk. There is potentially much work to do then to shore up both domestic and international environmental standards.

Overall the future for UK environmental policy completely outside the EU is potentially quite bleak. Much depends upon: who becomes the leader of the Conservative party; the broad exit strategy the cabinet decides to pursue; the broad negotiating mandate that UK MPs grant the government; and the offer the EU is prepared to make to its erstwhile member.

It is by no means clear that the British public has really thought about Brexit in any great detail. Some voters may be persuaded to leap to the defence of EU policies; some maybe only too willing to dispense with some EU environmental ‘red tape’. It is consequently incumbent upon experts and NGOs to mobilise to identify those environmental rules we should retain and to remind legislators and the British public why the environmental rules we have adopted via the EU are important. That way we may be able to ensure that the environmental gains made since joining the EU are retained.

Changes to the PSA Environment Co-Convenors

After three years of dedicated service, Dr. Paul Tobin is standing down as Co-Convenor of the PSA Environment specialist group. Paul had the following to say about his experience as a PSA Environment Co-Convenor:


Dr. Paul Tobin stands down after 3 years as PSA Environment Co-Convenor

 “It’s been a real privilege co-convening PSA Environment with Louise and Elizabeth. Two particular highlights were the joint event we ran with PSA French Politics on the Paris climate talks, and co-authoring our Teachers’ Topic Guide with Elizabeth. Elizabeth will be stepping down in August, and I would recommend to anyone considering standing to go for it! It’s been a great experience.”

Replacing Paul as the new Co-Convenor for PSA Environment is Shashi van de Graaff. Shashi is a PhD student from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

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Shashi van de Graaff joins the PSA Environment team as Co-Convenor

Shashi recently submitted her PhD thesis for examination and now resides in the UK. Her PhD research investigates historical and contemporary developments in civil nuclear energy programmes, looking specifically at the disjuncture between the rhetoric and reality of the “nuclear renaissance” throughout Western Europe and North America. Shashi is particularly interested in the relationship between energy, the environment and climate change. Prior to her PhD, Shashi worked at the University of Queensland’s Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, working on research projects aiming to improve the social performance of the resources industry globally.

A new opportunity to join the PSA Environment team will become available in August, as Elizabeth Bomberg will be standing down. If you are interested in replacing Elizabeth as a PSA Environment Co-Convenor, please email Elizabeth directly (e.bomberg [at]




Winner of the PSA Environment Best PhD Paper Competition

As part of the 2016 Political Studies Association Conference, the PSA Environment Group held a competition for the best paper written by a PhD Student with a prize of £100 in Blackwells vouchers for the winner. Entrance was open to PhD Students who had presented a paper at the conference, and who are also members of the PSA and the PSA Environment Specialist Group. We are very excited to announce that Fay Farstad from the University of York has won the competition with her paper examining variation in party salience on climate change. A very big congratulations to Fay! A short summary of Fay’s paper can be found below.

What explains variation in party salience on climate change?

The article explains variation in party salience on climate change, examining the effects of party characteristics. The party characteristics that are tested have previously been identified as relevant in individual country case studies, but have never before been tested comparatively or quantitatively. Creating a novel measure of parties’ climate change salience based on Comparative Manifesto Project data, the article finds that political orientation is more important than any other party characteristic in explaining variation in their climate change salience. This underlines the importance of ideology over size and strategic incentives, economic and policy preferences, and incumbency constraints. In addition to its empirical contribution, the article also fills significant gaps in the literature. By focusing on political parties and party characteristics, the article fills an important gap in the comparative climate policy literature, which is often focused on national governments and country characteristics, or international negotiations. Secondly, by focusing on climate change in particular, it fills a significant gap in the party politics literature, which is often concerned with the environment only. Collectively, these are important gaps to fill. Understanding why mainstream parties are more or less positive to climate change sheds light on opportunities and barriers to party competition and action on the issue, and importantly also feed into the wider literature on the adaptability of parties to new issues, and the nature of the climate change issue.


Winner of the PSA Environment Best PhD Paper Competition – Fay Farstad, University of York

Fay Madeleine Farstad is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Politics at the University of York. She holds a BA in Philosophy and Politics from the University of York and an MPhil in Environmental Policy from the University of Cambridge. She has also been a visiting scholar at the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra under the auspices of Prof. John Dryzek. Her research focuses on the comparative party politics of climate change, and her thesis is entitled: ‘From consensus to polarisation: what explains variation in political party agreement on climate change?’ In responding to this question she takes a comparative and mixed-methods approach, combining large and medium-N statistical analyses with a qualitative comparison of Australian and Norwegian parties. Her research is supervised by Prof. Neil Carter and Dr. Sofia Vasilopoulou, and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.


Will the Environmental Audit Committee Report at last bring the environment onto the referendum campaign agenda?

by Dr. Charlotte Burns, University of York

As the remain and leave sides launch their campaigns in the run up to the 23rd June referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, the environment may at last emerge as an issue, with the publication of the Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) report on the EU and UK environmental policy. Although this is the third report to be published since March reviewing the implications of the referendum for the UK’s environment, neither the remain nor leave groups has yet engaged with the issue in a significant way. The recent government leaflet explaining why the country should vote to remain in the EU makes only one passing mention of climate change and none of wider environmental policy. The Prime Minister’s reform mandate was also notably quiet on the subject. This silence is somewhat surprising given the widespread acceptance amongst experts that the EU has had a significant impact upon the UK environment. The UK was known as the ‘Dirty man of Europe’ in the 1970s and 1980s and the EU is widely credited with helping the clean up the national environment. Leading think-tank, the Institute for European Environmental Policy argued in its report in March that the EU has been good for the UK’s environment and expressed concern over the prospects for habitats and birds in the event of a ‘brexit’.  I have been working with a group of independent experts, funded by the UK in Changing Europe initiative and our report suggests that on balance EU membership has been beneficial for the UK’s environment. The EAC report published today is similarly positive.

There are several key areas of agreement across the reports. First, environmental policy benefits from transnational governance arrangements: pollution does not respect national borders and therefore mitigation of environmental problems requires cooperation across and between states. The EU provides a vehicle for such cooperation. Second, dealing with environmental issues requires clear targets and deadlines. A key impact of the EU upon the UK has been the requirement for clear policies with strong enforcement mechanisms, which UK citizens can rely upon. For example, the UK government is currently facing legal action over failing to meet air quality standards. EU policy also provides a degree of long term stability, and a more certain investment climate for the kinds infrastructural development required to, for example, make the transition to a low-carbon economy  or to secure better water quality via projects such as the Thames Tideway tunnel.

However, it is important to note that not everyone agrees with these findings. One member of the EAC, Peter Lilley, a leading Eurosceptic, insisted that a dissenting report expressing his views be appended to the main document. The calls from the Conservative backbenches for a bonfire of red tape have often had EU environmental regulations in their sights, and a recent Economist blog  suggests climate scepticism often goes hand-in-hand with euro-scepticism.   It seems unlikely then that any of these reports is going to change the mind of hardened eurosceptics. However, for those who are more uncertain about their voting intentions the findings of the EAC and other reports may provide food for thought.

The report in which I have been involved outlines three scenarios following the referendum: a vote to remain in a ‘reformed EU’; a vote to leave followed by joining the European Economic Area (EEA), the so-called ‘Norwegian option’; and a vote to leave the EU and develop a free trade agreement of some kind, the ‘free trade option’.  In the first two of these options the UK government will continue to be subject to EU standards in most areas and subject to enforcement proceedings. However, in the third ‘free trade’ case, whilst the Government is still likely to be subject to product rules in order to access the single European market, it will enjoy more freedom to reform existing environmental rules than it does currently as an EU member, where it can strengthen those rules, but cannot weaken them.  There is a shared pessimism amongst experts about the likely attitude of the UK government towards environmental protection under these circumstances. There appears to be a broadly cynical view that the UK government, regardless of its ideological composition, is unlikely to maintain the same level of protection or funding for the environment as that provided currently thanks to EU membership. We can only hope that the publication of the EAC report will force more explicit discussion of these issues by the campaigns with some detailed outlines of what a vote to remain or leave will mean for the UK’s environment.

Dr. Charlotte Burns is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Politics and Policy in the Environment Department at the University of York. She submitted evidence to EAC, is the co-author of The EU Referendum and the UK Environment: An Expert Review, and is the author of FoE Report, The Implications for UK Environmental Policy of a Vote to Exit the EU.