Interview with Carola Kloeck, Assistant Professor

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Carola Klöck

Carola Klöck (born Betzold) joined CERI in September 2018 as Assistant professor in political science. Carola’s research is located at the interface of political science, human geography and development studies, and examines adaptation to climate change, and the politics of climate change more generally. Interview.

Can you tell us about your academic background?

I did my PhD in Switzerland at ETH Zurich. My thesis focused on international negotiations on climate change and the role of non-state actors in these negotiations. After defending my PhD in 2013, I went to Gothenburg in Sweden for two years as a post-doctoral fellow and started working on climate change adaptation, especially in financial terms. At the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, industrialized countries pledged to mobilize $100 billion annually from 2020 onwards as well as immediate “fast-start finance”. Part of this funding must be devoted to climate change adaptation, especially in vulnerable countries such as small island states. I therefore wondered whether these small and vulnerable states had actually received the funding they were promised. I started working on this subject with Florent Weiler from the University of Basel.

I did a second post-doc in Antwerp, Belgium, then I joined the University of Göttingen in Germany and finally the CERI in 2018.

What are your current research interests?

I am still interested in climate change financing and small island states. I have two projects that I am particularly interested in.

The first concerns the financing of climate change adaptation: I am interested in knowing what countries do with the money they receive; to what extent does this money finance adaptation to climate change or not; why do countries take this or that action and are the measures taken the most effective? Could the money received have been better used - an important question to the extent that the amounts received are insufficient? I ask these questions in the context of small island states, which I find very interesting because of their high vulnerability and the fact that they are forced to adapt as quickly as possible to climate change, but also because island societies have always had to manage a difficult environment. Small island states are pioneers in terms of adapting to climate change. Politically, it is interesting to see that Seychelles, with a population of 50,000, has the same status in the climate negotiations as France or Germany. While this is perfectly normal, the fact remains that these islands are very different from our continental states.

My second project concerns climate negotiations. I would like to come back to this subject and look at the coalitions that have been formed. Usually, states do not intervene individually but within a group, just like the states do within the European Union. There are many coalitions, particularly for developing countries, about ten to date. By forming a coalition called the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the small island states have managed to play a considerable role despite their small size. Each of them often belongs to several coalitions, sometimes defending opposing positions. I am interested in looking at how a country like Seychelles, which has only a pool of a few people to participate in the negotiations—some delegations have only three people— actually manages to work and be a member of several coalitions with such a small team. I am interested in knowing if participating in several groups is interesting for small states and if so, in what way. This issue has not yet been addressed in the literature.

Why did you choose to work on these topics? Where does your interest in environmental issues come from?

I am an environmentalist, so I have always been interested in the environment. In addition, when I started my studies, I read an article in which small island states called on the international community to take action on climate change. This text aroused my interest and finally decided on my research areas. These states are very vulnerable and some of them may even be threatened with extinction. This idea of the physical disappearance of a country is fascinating, even if there is no certainty whether this will actually occur. It is interesting to note that atolls can disappear but that they can also grow, because they are dynamic systems fed by coral reefs and can therefore grow as water rises. The latest research on atolls shows that their size has not decreased in recent years. What is clear is that climate change will pose various challenges and not only for small island states. Stronger and/or more frequent tropical storms or coastal erosion, among others, are global problems that do not only concern small island states as we know.

Interview by Corinne Deloy

© Photo: Alexis Lecomte /Sciences Po