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Current Projects

Exploring Social Justice in Ecosystem Restoration

Elaine Marshall

Global biodiversity loss and increasing awareness of the multiple values of biodiversity for people, has resulted in an array of mechanisms, actions, policy, legislative and financial incentives for ecosystem restoration. 2021-2030 is declared the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, to prevent, halt and reverse degradation of ecosystems worldwide. Efforts such as the international “Bonn challenge” - to restore 350 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 - will take place in the context of sustainable development decision-making and COVID-19 pandemic recovery.

Ecosystem restoration is place-based - interventions in landscapes where people live and derive livelihoods can result in trade-offs and conflicts with existing land uses and land users. It imperative to engage the full participation of local communities around restoration decision-making to promote fair and equitable benefit sharing over the longer term. The natural capital approach frames social-well being within the context of provisioning goods and services from nature, but we seek to build a more inclusive approach, drawing from environmental and climate justice theories, to addressing the historical eco-centric or anthropocentric dichotomy. We will evaluate and synthesise existing International Development and Ecological Restoration approaches to develop a new conceptual framework that balances ecological, social and economic considerations for restoration, recognising different ideological motivations for restoring and maintaining biodiverse landcapes, and the differentiated impacts of interventions upon different stakeholders. Of particular interest is how restoration effectiveness varies according to the demographic and socio-economic status of recipients (power dynamics, well-being, gender, age, access to education, religion, and race inter and intra-generational differences, gender etc.), and allows us to consider which people and whose views are taken on board when decisions are made, and who is impacted by those decisions.

Climate (in)Justice in Practice?

Carlotta Smalen

Carlotta’s study “Climate (in)Justice in Practice? Examining the relationship between changing climates, community based adaptive responses and gender relations” proposes an investigation into the gendered effectives of changing climates on communities with low adaptive capacities, high incidences of gender inequality and low levels of female empowerment. Its primary aim is to map the effects of climate change and community-based adaptation responses on gender dynamics and the well-being of young girls. More specifically, it examines the relationship between the re-emergence of practices of child and early marriage (CEM) as a maladaptive strategy in response to climate shocks.

This project explores if and how the impacts of climate change impacts the root causes of CEM, resulting in an increase of young girls being married off as part of an adaptation strategy to reduce their families’ vulnerability to climate change. In order to examine the linkages between climate change, adaptation and CEM, this research proposes to conduct a case study in the Lower Shire Valley of Malawi. This study relies on a mixed-methods research design of both quantitative and qualitative research methods, a systemic literature review, semi-structured interviews with community leaders, decision-makers and key elites, focus group discussions, and household surveys. It develops a structural methodological approach to measure gendered effects of climate changes on vulnerable communities. In doing so, it will facilitate critical insights into the policy, practice, and programs of national and international development cooperation agencies and organisations working to achieve Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, starting with the furthest behind first.

A just transition? Exploring the opportunities of gender transformative climate adaptation and transition policy and planning in Ireland

Niamh Donnelly

This research project, funded by the Mary Robinson Fellowship Award, aims to critically examine the different dimensions, scales and constructions of the 'just transition' within the context of Irish climate action. The project will focus on issues of resource distribution, gender representation (degrees of participation and democratic deliberation) and recognition (concerning respect and esteem, membership and belonging) in both policy and practice. Ultimately, this project seeks to take a critical social theory approach to conceptualising a just transition framework that is not only gender responsive, but actively gender transformative.

Climate Justice through Restorative Development

This is a PhD project exploring opportunities and barriers to community participation, social recognition, and fair distribution of the social, economic and ecological costs and co-benefits of offsetting through afforestation in Ireland. This project is embedded in the FOREST project - an exciting new multi-disciplinary project examining native woodland afforestation, which has become perceived as a key strategy to address climate and biodiversity challenges, and is attracting investment from public and private actors. However, the ecological, social, and financial risks of this are not always well considered. This project, FOREST, will use the increase in forestry in Ireland as a model system to explore the challenges associated with addressing climate and biodiversity issues, and examine potential solutions from a multi-disciplinary perspective. The aim is to develop socially just, ecologically sound and economically viable options.