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European cooperation on sustainability off to a slow start

Ries Kamphof conducted research into European sustainability policies; his findings are that the European Committee very rarely uses her authority. ‘The member states are very protective when it comes to taking action to protect the climate.’ PhD ceremony on 22 November 2018.

For his research, Kamphof focused on three relevant topics:  global climate negotiations, implementation of SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) set by the UN, and alternative fuels. ‘I’ve looked at how well the European Committee and member states are cooperating and the importance of political and legal circumstances from an scientific point of view,’ explains Kamphof. ‘I had expected the European Committee to have taken on a more active role but it turns out that the Committee doesn’t really follow up on the decisions that were agreed upon in the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. When it comes to taking decisive action on sustainability, the EU tends to loosen of the reigns.’

Achieving climate objectives

Kamphof’s dissertation offers a model in which both political science and legal knowledge are joined together. ‘At the moment, not many people are making that same connection. For researchers, as well as for policy advisers, these new insights are very useful  because when it comes to policy both political and legal circumstances are factored in,’ according to Kamphof. It is of the utmost importance for governments when it comes to taking action. For example, the (Dutch) judge agreed with the Urgenda Foundation’s claim that the Dutch government should make more haste in achieving the climate objectives. ‘This shows that the legal process is colliding more and more with political policy making. I’ve tried to also bridge that gap on an academic level,’ says Kamphof.

Research and career

After graduating in Political Sciences, Kamphof first started working for the ‘Eerste Kamer’ (the Dutch Upper Chamber), he then went on to work for a Dutch foundation for sustainability policy (NCDO), and the Clingendael Institute. While finalizing his PhD, he entered the employment of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. What was it that made Kamphof choose this subject? ‘I noticed that, led by the British, the discussion on competences in Europe was heating up,’ says Kamphof. ‘I found the concept of joined competences especially interesting when it came to the climate negotiations because here international cooperation is essential. Luckily, it turned out to be a very topical issue.’

Dual PhD programme

Kamphof combined his PhD research with his career as researcher/consultant and, later on, policy adviser, which might seem an unusual combination. ‘The best thing was that it enabled me to incorporate my insights from my workplace into my research. But it wasn’t always easy, trying to obtain a doctorate in your spare time. The guidance offered by the Dual PhD Centre was instrumental for me, it is where I met my peers.  I also really enjoyed teaching at Wijnhaven because of the international atmosphere. The campus is located literally in the decision-making heart of the city.’

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