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As a PhD candidate at Utrecht University, you will conduct research for four years, under the guidance of various colleagues of the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law from Utrecht University to generate relevant results for the Dutch society and the legal community. The subject of your PhD dissertation, focusing on the international, EU and domestic legal framework regulating offshore wind energy in the North sea, falls within the NWA-funded project ‘Ecosystem-based Adaptive Management for Renewable Energy in a Sustainable North Sea’ (Ecoamare). The PhD will be embedded within the School of Law, department International and European Law. The candidate will also be a member of the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability law (UCWOSL – one of the research groups of the School of Law) and the UU strategic theme Pathways to Sustainability. The precise focus of the project will be agreed in consultation with the supervisors dr. Nikolaos Giannopoulos, prof. dr. Alex Oude Elferink and prof. dr. Chris Backes.
The intended starting date of the position is 1 September 2023.
The subject of the PhD research:
Motivated by their international and EU climate commitments and in line with the recent European Green Deal and RePower EU Plan, European North Sea coastal States have recently announced their increased ambitions for the expansion of offshore wind energy installations. In that regard, 9 North Sea countries, united in the North Seas Energy Cooperation have agreed to jointly build 300 gigawatts of wind power capacity in the North sea by 2050. They have also agreed to work closely to increase interconnections and ensure a more robust energy system for all countries bordering the North Sea. However, the North Sea is already one of the most intensively use marine regions in the world. In that context, the projected proliferation of wind energy installations is expected to put additional strains on the North Sea ecosystem, whose dynamics are currently only partially understood. Therefore, the scheduled proliferation of offshore wind farms in the North Sea requires strategic consideration of its impacts both on other existing offshore (non) uses and the cumulative effects on the interconnected marine ecosystems.
Currently, knowledge on the ecological effects of offshore wind energy remains largely fragmented, with notably cumulative and long-term effects of various uses of the North Sea ecosystem being understudied. From a legal point of view, the existing legal framework (at international, EU and domestic levels) does not sufficiently address cumulative effects of such activities nor the possibility for adaptive management, while providing little guidance on how scientific uncertainty is regulated, for instance, concerning the role of the precautionary principle. These are crucial challenges in a context where the legal and policy frameworks have traditionally taken a reactive approach, responding to new environmental challenges following the accumulation of the robust scientific knowledge. However, the anticipated large scale of offshore wind energy and its unknown ecological impacts require a proactive approach that deals with the existing scientific and technological uncertainties.
In that context, the PhD researcher will -among others- engage with the following questions:
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The Utrecht University School of Law has provided quality research and education for more than 350 years. Constant innovation has enabled the School to maintain its leading position. Top-ranking research is conducted in all important legal fields: private law, criminal law, constitutional and administrative law, EU law, public international law. Researchers collaborate intensively with foreign partners, mainly from the angle of European and comparative law. The School of Law also conducts contract research and consultancy for other organisations. The extensive educational programme is based on academic research conducted within the faculty of Law, Economics and Governance. Students are trained to be highly qualified, internationally-oriented lawyers on the basis of modern didactical principles.
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