The Politics of Environment, Climate and Sustainability


The advent of the Anthropocene; a new geological epoch, where humans are the driving force behind planetary changes such as depletion of natural resources, pollution of the global commons and global warming is one of the biggest social, economic and political challenges of our times. This complex and encompassing challenge creates a plethora of problems and dilemmas such as for example how to understand these challenges and try to govern at different scales in this age of planetary boundaries? What are the geopolitics related to the challenges? How are questions of power and global as well as intergenerational justice redefined? How do we mitigate as well as adapt to the challenge of climate change (heatwaves, flooding, famines, immigration, etc.)? Can our societies continue to grow in terms of material wealth or are changes in our lifestyles and behaviour needed? Do we have the right policy instruments for this? What about norms and behaviour?

In order for our students to be able to understand, analyse, contribute to solutions and intervene in politics in this area it is necessary that they learn about the main themes, debates and conflicts within environmental, climate and sustainability politics at different scales; global (i.e. the UN), regional (i.e. the EU), national (i.e. Denmark), local, and the problems and solutions brought to the fore by different sectors: civil society, the private sector, governments and partnerships and networks between actors in these sectors. It is also necessary that our students learn about the ideas and discourses within this area, the institutions and actors involved, as well as the main theories and methodologies used to understand and analyse the field.

Structure of the core subject

The core subject in International Political Economy consists of two compulsory courses which students have to take during the same Autumn semester:

  • The Politics of Environment and Climate (15 ECTS)
  • Perspectives on sustainability  (7,5 ECTS)

A specific course description and learning outcome for each of the courses will be available after the 1st of May at  

The core subject line will be coupled to, and benefit from, the different events, study groups, conferences, etc. arranged by both senior staff as well as students at the newly established Centre for Sustainability and Society at the Faculty of Social Sciences (SUSY).

Why should I take the core subject in Politics of Environment, Climate and Sustainability?

  • Because you are frustrated with the current level of (in)action by the world’s political leaderson questions of climate change and sustainability, and because you want to be able to intervene in debates, take action and propose solutions on a well-informed theoretical and empirical basis. You are curious to learn about current solutions brought to the fore in global, regional, national and local fora; by the private sector, transnational networks and green movements and initiatives, and to what extent they are effective and viable. Also, you want to know how you can make a difference, and the avenues open for civil and political participation.

  • Because you will become a part of a community of students and researcherswho, as you, have a burning interest in these issues, and are striving to build a research and teaching community around the politics of environment, climate and sustainability at the Department of Political Science and around the Centre for Sustainability and Society (SUSY). You will be part of a pioneering effort as theories and methodologies in this field are fast evolving, and new research questions constantly pop up.

  • Because you imagine a career working with the challenges of climate change and sustainabilitynationally or internationally. This might be in the UN system or the EU, in a ministry dealing with these issues or in a municipality. Job opportunities are fast developing in this area and NGO’s, consultancy firms, think tanks and private companies are increasingly hiring people who are able to combine classical political science skills in governance and method with strong insights in the core challenges of climate change and sustainability.    


The core subject in Politics of Environment, Climate and Sustainability will enable MA-students to analyse the main issues within the broad and complex interdisciplinary field of environment, climate and sustainability. It will enable them to discuss and evaluate relevant current research within the field, and it will develop their critical thinking, creativity, innovation, collaboration and communication skills through group-based learning activities and casework.

The competencies that the students of this course will acquire are the following:

  • The student will be able to describe what environmental, climate and sustainability politics is, how the politics and policies have evolved over time, and how they unfold at different scales from global to local.

  • The student will be able to present the main social science based theoretical approaches to the field.

  • The student will be able to explain how the Anthropocene/the planetary boundaries challenge existing theories within political science and traditional approaches to politics.

  • The student will be able to combine and use different theories in the analyses of concrete environmental, climate and sustainability policies.

  • The student will be able to use such analysis in working with one or more cases presented at the course or chosen in collaboration with an external partner.

  • The students will be able to plan and manage a case-work process from initiation to final result.

  • The student will be able to critically reflect on the scope and explanatory power of the theories used; especially in relation to the cases analysed.

Teaching Team

The Politics of Environment and Climate:

Ian Manners, Professor

  • Jens Hoff, Professor
  • Lars Tønder, Professor
  • Jens Ladefoged Mortensen, Associate Professor
  • Olaf Corry, Associate Professor
  • Jonas Rosenstand Bruun, PhD, External Lecturer

Perspectives on Sustainability:

  • Peter Birch Sørensen, Professor, Dept. of Economics
  • Jens Hoff, Professor, Dept. of Political Science
  • Anders Blok, Associate Professor, Dept. of Sociology
  • Quentin Gausset, Associate Professor, Dept. of Anthropology
  • Thomas Alan Morton, Associate Professor, Dept. of Psychology
  • Anette Høite Hansen, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Anthropology

Registration for the core subject

You can read more about the registration process at your study information page at KUnet.


If you have any academic questions regarding the core subject, please contact Jens Hoff. If you have any practical questions regarding registration for courses, exams or how to plan your study, please contact the Student Advisory Service.