1 year full time, 2 years part time
Starts September 2017

Climate Change, Development and Policy

Study the twin challenges of transition to a low-carbon economy and adaptation to climate change, and how they influence global and regional development. This course (for non-specialists in the climate field) explores the multiple and interconnected dimensions of science and technology, and the economics, politics and policy of climate change.

There is an emphasis on understanding the implications of climate change and climate policies for equity between, and within, countries. You gain specialist knowledge of the earth system and climate impacts, for example related to water, food and ecosystem services.

You’ll be based at the School of Global Studies, and taught by faculty from Global Studies, SPRU – Science Policy Research Unit and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS).

I was able to focus on my area of interest and link it to my past experience in finance while being supervised by excellent academics. This opened doors to develop my career.”Gabriela Moya Toledo
United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI)

Key facts

  • Sussex is ranked 1st in the world for Development Studies in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017. You’ll be taught by faculty from the School of Global Studies, SPRU – Science Policy Research Unit and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS).
  • Climate change and sustainable energy are perhaps the most important issues of our time, challenging us to transition to a worldwide low-carbon economy, provide modern energy services to a growing population and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.
  • Our courses have a proven track record for graduate employment in the climate profession. We have an alumni network of professionals spanning the globe. 

How will I study?

You gain practical experience of the methods, techniques and approaches used in the profession, including the financial and regulatory aspects of carbon management and climate risk management.

You learn through modules and options. Research methods and professional skills training prepare you for further research and a professional career, and includes training in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

In the summer term, you undertake supervised work on a 10,000-word dissertation and receive additional bespoke research methods training.


You can apply to take a placement with this course. On placement, you gain work experience related to your subject and practical skills in preparation for a professional career. Research placements run for up to 12 weeks in the summer term and vacation. You can also write your dissertation based on your experience.

The School of Global Studies and the Careers and Employability Centre will help you with your applications.

Find out more about Global Studies postgraduate placements

Full-time and part-time study

Choose to study this course full time or part time, to fit around your work and family life. Modules for the full-time course are listed below.

For details about the part-time course, contact us at

What will I study?

  • Module list

    Core modules

    Core modules are taken by all students on the course. They give you a solid grounding in your chosen subject and prepare you to explore the topics that interest you most.

    • Ideas and Concepts in Climate, Development, Economics and Policy

      30 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

    • The Science of Climate Change

      30 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      This course introduces you to the physical science basis of climate change, recognising that the audience is comprised substantially of non-climate specialists.

      The course provides you with an overview of how the global climate system operates. This includes explanation of the different components of the climate system and how they interact; the radiation budget and the concept of radiative forcing which is the main driver of climate change; the composition of the atmosphere, how heat is transferred around the planet through the general circulation of the atmosphere and ocean; how the concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is regulated by bio-geochemical cycles on land and ocean. You then consider the natural and human influences on the radiation budget over recent millennia and how we can attribute observed climate changes to these. You conclude by evaluating projections of the future climate and associated uncertainty.

      There is strong emphasis on how climate influences society and livelihoods, for exemplify through extreme climate and weather events. Throughout, you will gain an understanding of the methods and tools used in studying climate, notably climate datasets and climate models. You will document the history of climate change science, and exemplify the structures which steer science including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).The course is specifically designed to be accessible for students from a range of academic and professional backgrounds.

    • Research Methods and Professional Skills (Geog)

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      This module provides you with training in social science research methods (generic as well as specific to your dissertation research) as well as with a set of professional skills that prepare you for a professional career. The module is run as a series of half-day workshops from which you select three workshops to match your specific needs, depending on disciplinary orientation, previous training and experience, future employment plans and personal interests. 

      The workshops will cover a wide range of topics. The social research methods workshops will include interviewing, ethnographic methods, participatory research techniques and questionnaire design. The professional skills workshops will include, for example, stakeholder engagement, sustainable livelihoods analysis, environmental impact assessment, project planning and private sector consulting. The professional skills will also help to prepare you if you plan to take a work placement over summer. As part of the module, you will also receive a workshop on dissertation planning and design.

    • Dissertation (Climate Change, Development and Policy)

      45 credits
      Summer Teaching, Year 1


    Alongside your core modules, you can choose options to broaden your horizons and tailor your course to your interests.

    • Challenges in Climate Prediction

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      Climate modelling has strongly shaped the climate change issue. This course provides non-climate specialist students with a comprehensive overview of the science of climate prediction, and highlights many of the crucial applications of models.

      You will covers the principles of climate modelling, recent development in seasonal-decadal prediction and then consider the development of Earth System Models for multi-decadal climate change projections. As such, you will consider the interaction between the different components of the climate system and our ability to model these.

      The emphasis is on those components that may invoke substantial feedbacks within the climate system. This includes clouds, aerosols and sea/land ice and the bio-geochemical cycles of greenhouse gases involved in vegetation, soils and the oceans. There is a major emphasis on the global carbon cycle. You will also consider the likelihood of rapid and abrupt climate changes associated with various 'tipping points' in the climate system, and assess recent initiatives to quantify uncertainty in climate prediction. Throughout the course, there is a clear emphasis on how climate modelling relates to the mitigation policy agenda, for example through greenhouse gas stabilisation regimes, verification of mitigation policies, and to adaptation activities. The course is designed to be accessible to students from a range of academic backgrounds.

    • Climate change: Impacts and Adaptation

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      This course is concerned with how we determine the impacts of climate change on the natural and managed systems on which we depend, and how we might adapt to these impacts. It provides you with an overview of projections of future climate at the regional scale and the chance to evaluate the associated uncertainties, illustrated through programmes like the UK Climate impacts programme (UKCIP). You will consider the general 'top-down' methodology of climate change impact assessment, illustrated with case studies from a range of sectors including water resources, forestry, food production, coastal systems and health.

      The material will focus on quanitifying the risks of climate impacts and methods to determine uncertainty. You will also consider how you can determine what is considered to be 'dangerous climate change', and the spectrum of complementary approaches to developing adaptation strategies (such as the bottom-up 'vulnerability assessments' and adaptive social protection). Issues relating to adaptation policy at the local and national level, including National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) and the economics of adaptation, will also be highlighted.

    • Climate Resilient Development

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      The course analyses the overlaps between disasters, climate change and poverty, focusing on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction approaches and their contribution to achieving climate resilient development. This course introduces you to key concepts underpinning climate resilient development, including vulnerability, risk, uncertainty, and resilience, as well as the role of climate and disasters science in informing policy and practice. Lectures will balance theoretical debates with issues in international policy, particularly the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and practical case study examples from development policy and practice.

      Topics include: downscaling global climate data and dealing with uncertainty; impact modelling and sectoral planning approaches; seasonal forecasts and early warning; conceptual insights: vulnerability, risk, uncertainty and resilience; climate resilient development and international policy; community-based adaptation and national adaptation planning; climate change, migration and conflict; disaster risk reduction; mainstreaming and organisational change; adaptation delivery instruments; economics of adaptation and adaptation finance; and low carbon climate resilient development.

    • Environment, Resources, Security

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

    • Low Carbon Development

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      This course considers the implications of climate change mitigation policy and the transition to a low carbon development for developing countries. You will engage with critical debates in relation to climate change and economic development, including tensions and commonalities between developed and developing economies. These are definitive of the contemporary international policy debate and on-going negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.

      Topics covered will include: climate change scenario generation; greenhouse gas emission and stabilisation targets; technology and technology transfer; renewable energy, CCS and geo-engineering; low carbon pathways and transitions; carbon offsetting; energy models; carbon markets, CDM and post Copenhagen international market instruments; and forestry and REDD.

    • Dissertation with Placement (Global Studies)

      45 credits
      Summer Teaching, Year 1

      This module is designed to allow you to apply theories and concepts, as well as practical and research skills learned during the MA programme, to a work context in the UK or internationally. It takes the form of a 12-week work placement with an organisation working in a field relevant to the degree programme, normally undertaken from May-July after assessments on other courses are completed.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class (2.1) undergraduate honours degree or above in either a social or natural science. Applicants with relevant professional experience will also be considered.

English language requirements

Standard level (IELTS 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each section)

Find out about other English language qualifications we accept.

English language support

Don’t have the English language level for your course? Find out more about our pre-sessional courses.

Additional information for international students

We welcome applications from all over the world. Find out about international qualifications suitable for our Masters courses.

Visas and immigration

Find out how to apply for a student visa

Fees and scholarships

How much does it cost?


Home: £7,700 per year

EU: £7,700 per year

Channel Islands and Isle of Man: £7,700 per year

Overseas: £15,100 per year

Note that your fees may be subject to an increase on an annual basis.

How can I fund my course?

Postgraduate Masters loans

Borrow up to £10,280 to contribute to your postgraduate study.

Find out more about Postgraduate Masters Loans


Our aim is to ensure that every student who wants to study with us is able to despite financial barriers, so that we continue to attract talented and unique individuals.

Chancellor’s Masters Scholarship (2017)

Open to students with a 1st class from a UK university or excellent grades from an EU university and offered a F/T place on a Sussex Masters in 2017

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Chancellor’s Masters Scholarship

Sussex Graduate Scholarship (2017)

Open to Sussex students who graduate with a first or upper second-class degree and offered a full-time place on a Sussex Masters course in 2017

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Graduate Scholarship

How Masters scholarships make studying more affordable

Living costs

Find out typical living costs for studying at Sussex.


Meet the people teaching and supervising on your course.

  • Faculty profiles

    Dr Alexander Antonarakis
    Lecturer In Global Change Ecology

    Research interests: Carbon Capture and Storage, Carbon cycles and land use land cover changes, Environmental modelling, GIS Mapping, Remote Sensing & Earth Observation, River Hydraulics, Terrestrial ecology

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    Dr Robert Byrne

    Research interests: climate policy, Developing Countries, Development studies, energy policy, Innovation for sustainability, Low carbon development, Renewables, Socio-technical transitions, Strategic niche management

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    Dr Rose Cairns
    Research Fellow

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    Mr Terry Cannon
    Research Fellow

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    Miss Emily Cox
    Associate Tutor

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    Dr Adrian Ely
    Senior Lecturer in SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

    Research interests: Agro-ecological agriculture, biotechnology, Chinese science & innovation policy, Food Security, Innovation for sustainability, Research and innovation governance

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    Prof Tim Foxon
    Professor of Sustainability Transitions

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    Dr Mick Frogley
    Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography

    Research interests: Climate change, Palaeoenvironments, Quaternary Science

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    Dr Sabine Hielscher
    Research Fellow

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    Dr Ralitsa Hiteva
    Research Fellow

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    Dr Philip Johnstone
    Research Fellow

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    Dr Florian Kern
    Senior Lecturer

    Research interests: Climate change, Energy, Innovation policy issues, Political economy, Politics, Science and technology policy, Sustainability transitions

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    Dr Paula Kivimaa
    Senior Research Fellow

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    Prof Dominic Kniveton
    Professor of Climate Science & Society

    Research interests: Africa, Climate change, Development, Migration, South Asia

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    Prof Gordon Mackerron
    Professor Of Science And Technology Policy

    Research interests: Nuclear power

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    Dr Mari Martiskainen
    Research Fellow

    Research interests: community energy, Energy Efficiency, energy policy, Fuel poverty, Grassroots innovations, intermediation, Sustainability transitions

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    Prof Erik Millstone
    Professor in Science & Technology Policy

    Research interests: Food Safety Policy, Obesity prevention policy, Science and Policy-Making, Science and technology policy, Sustainable agriculutral development

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    Prof Julian Murton
    Professor of Permafrost Science

    Research interests: Arctic, Engineering Geology, Ice Age Britain, Periglacial geomorphology, Permafrost

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    Dr Lars Otto Naess

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    Dr David Ockwell
    Reader in Geography

    Research interests: Climate change, Climate change mitigation, climate policy, Energy, Energy and climate policy, energy policy, Energy transitions, Innovation Policy, International Development, Sustainable energy production

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    Mrs Ana Pueyo

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    Dr Karoline Rogge
    Senior Lecturer in Sustainability Innovality

    Research interests: climate policy, consistency, credibility, decarbonization, eco-innovation, ecological economics, energy transition, Environmental economics, eu emission trading system, Innovation studies, policy mix, Renewables, sustainability, Sustainability transitions

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    Dr Pedram Rowhani
    Senior Lecturer in Geography

    Research interests: Climate Impact, Food Security, GIS Mapping, Land Cover Change, Land Use Change, Remote Sensing & Earth Observation

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    Prof Adrian Smith
    Professor of Technology and Society

    Research interests: Grassroots innovation, Innovation studies, Politics of technology, STS, Sustainable development, Technology and society

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    Prof Steven Sorrell
    Professor of Energy Policy

    Research interests: Energy and climate policy, Energy Efficiency, rebound effects, resource depletion

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    Prof Benjamin Sovacool
    Professor of Energy Policy

    Research interests: Climate change adaptation, Climate change mitigation, energy justice, energy policy, energy security, Energy Supply, Sustainability: Environmental

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    Dr Lee Stapleton
    Research Fellow

    Research interests: Applied Statistics, Ecosystem Services, Energy economics, Environmental economics

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    Prof Andrew Stirling
    Professor of Science & Technology Policy

    Research interests: diversity analysis, ecological economics, energy policy, innovation democracy, multicriteria mapping, participatory appraisal, precaution, risk, Science And Technology Studies, science policy, Sustainability transitions, technology assessment, uncertainty

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    Prof Martin Todd
    Professor in Climate Change

    Research interests: Aerosol Generation, Africa, Atmospheric sciences, atmospheric aerosols, Climate and climate change, climate and development, Climate change, Climate change adaptation, Climate modelling, Climatic Effects, Climatic Effects (Water Engineering), Climatology, groundwater, Water In The Atmosphere, Water Resources

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    Dr Yi Wang
    Senior Lecturer in Climate Change

    Research interests: Carbon cycles and land use land cover changes, Climate and climate change, Climate change adaptation, Climate change mitigation, Climate modelling, climate policy, Earth and environmental, Earth system sciences, Flood Risk Assessment, Global carbon cycles, Hydrology

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    Prof Jim Watson
    Professor of Energy Policy

    Research interests: Energy and climate policy, Innovation Policy

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Climate change is out of the research lab and on to the front page. I work on the shift to low-carbon energy and climate change’s impact in the developing world.”Martin Todd
Professor in Climate Change


There is a rapidly expanding market for climate professionals. This course prepares you for employment in a wide range of government, non-government and academic organisations, as well as private companies in the areas of climate change, development and energy policy.

Our graduates are very successful in finding employment and developing careers in the profession, including among others: 

  • international organisations and agencies (including the UN Environment Programme, The World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank) 
  • various NGOs (including the International Federation of the Red Cross, Renewable World, Action Against Hunger International) 
  • national government ministries and development agencies (including UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, DFID, GiZ) 
  • national environment agencies across the world 
  • a wide range of private-sector organisations (including energy utilities, the renewables sector, consultancy companies) and public-sector organisations (universities and not-for-profit organisations). 

Graduate destinations

93% of students from the School of Global Studies were in work or further study six months after graduating. Recent students have gone on to roles including:

  • head of conference production, Climate Action
  • climate change specialist, World Bank
  • public international assistant, United Nations Environmental Programme.

(EPI, Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education Survey 2015 for postgraduates)

Working while you study

Our Careers and Employability Centre can help you find part-time work while you study. Find out more about career development and part-time work

Overall the experience helped my career development, not only through exposure to world-class teachers and researchers, but also the opportunity to take up research assistant posts at IDS.”Blanche Ting
Senior Specialist in Biotechnology
Department of Science and Technology, South Africa

Contact us