Transboundary climate risks: a Q&A with Martin Munene

Martin Munene is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography and Environment

Many countries and communities that have contributed almost nothing to climate change are the most vulnerable to its impacts.
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Martin Munene

What are you currently researching?

I am currently exploring how risks and impacts arising from climate change and from climate response actions are transmitted across borders and how they can be effectively managed within our increasingly bordered sociopolitical world.

Why did you choose this area of study?

Many reasons led me to this area. Firstly, I realised that climate change impacts are not constrained by borders. Enabled by globalisation, its impacts in one corner of the world can easily be transmitted to other parts.

Secondly, I noticed that most of the climate response interventions strikingly resemble the initiatives that contributed to climate change in the first place. Therefore, if not rethought, climate action could redistribute risks and vulnerabilities between places and sectors.

Thirdly, I realised that many countries and communities that have contributed almost nothing to climate change are the most vulnerable to its impacts. So, I wanted to contribute to the knowledge and understanding of these complexities on one hand and development of the required solutions on the other.  

How will your research have a wider impact on society? Can you give some real-world examples of the impact your research will have?

My research has the potential to inform policy, practice and decision-making in many contexts and levels. It can inform better development and implementation of climate response policies and strategies by incorporating transboundary perspective in climate risk assessment and response.

It can also be used as more evidence on the need for collaboration and cooperation across all types of borders, not just the legal-political or international borders. For example, my research provides insights into the implications of devolution in countries like Kenya and discusses the opportunities and challenges of governing transboundary climate and disaster risks within and by devolved governance systems.

It also explores how to craft and apply tools like financing, and environmental and social safeguards to manage transboundary risks. Thus, many national and subnational governments as well as non-state actors and development partners can draw inspiration from my research findings to develop and improve their climate response toolkits in diverse contexts for better outcomes.

What have been the highlights of your research work so far?

One highlight has been the opportunity to collaborate with researchers from different disciplines and backgrounds. I have also had the chance to engage with various policymakers and stakeholders potentially interested in the practical applications of my research. I have participated in several multistakeholder forums, invited either to speak and share my work or to moderate discussions relevant to my research work.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Doing a PhD in a global pandemic while taking care of our daughter born at the beginning of lockdowns, thousands of miles away from my extended family. Navigating the complex and dynamic nature of transboundary contexts has not been easy, and the transboundary COVID-19 pandemic constrained my data collection and collaboration with other researchers and stakeholders. Additionally, as I write my thesis, it has been challenging to drop some ideas I had grown fond of in favour of others.

What advice would you give to prospective students on the most effective way to approach research and keep stress levels down?

Yes, although research can be rewarding and fulfilling, and perhaps make a real difference in the world, it can be a daunting and challenging undertaking. It’s important to approach it with an open mind and willingness to learn and adapt. Stay curious, organised, and connected with self, others and nature.

Why? Maintaining a sense of curiosity and enthusiasm in the research topic can help to sustain motivation and focus throughout the research process. Breaking down tasks into manageable pieces, setting realistic goals and timelines, asking questions, and seeking feedback and support from supervisors, peers, and other stakeholders can foster progress.

Also, taking care of one's physical and mental health is vital, and finding a balance between work and leisure activities can help to manage stress levels. So, take breaks and find ways to manage stress - like sports, exercise, mindfulness practices, spending time with loved ones etc.

In a few words, what is the best thing about studying at LSE?

The exposure to a diverse student body, access to world-class academics and research resources, numerous opportunities for professional development and networking with influencers in academia and industry for the best thing about studying at LSE. It’s location in the middle of the cosmopolitan London City offers an enriching educational experience. These contribute to challenging LSE students towards elevated excellence and global perspective on things.