Q&A with Fergus Green

Investigating the impacts of policy change

PhD student at the Department of Government

Governments around the world make countless legal and policy changes every day. Almost all of these will have a transitional impact on people’s lives and companies’ bottom lines.

Fergus Green

What are you currently researching?

My doctoral research considers how governments should address the transitional impacts (“winners and losers”) of legal and policy change.

For example, under what conditions (if any) should workers and companies in the fossil fuel industry receive compensation or some other kind of transitional assistance upon the implementation of climate change policies such as carbon taxes?

I consider this issue from the perspective of various idioms and traditions of political thought, including property rights, efficiency, legitimate expectations, justice, fairness, civic virtue, and aggregate well-being.

What attracted you to this area of research? 

For more than a decade I have worked in differing capacities on the politics and governance of climate change.

During the long and arduous process of establishing carbon pricing legislation in my native Australia in the period 2007 - 12, the government at the time made a number of morally and politically dubious decisions about transitional assistance.

It was clear that the government lacked a coherent, principled philosophy for addressing the manifold claims for such assistance that arose in response to the proposed policy. This episode got me thinking about what a principled approach would look like in the climate case, and more generally with respect to legal and policy change.

How will your research improve or have a wider impact on society?

Governments around the world make countless legal and policy changes every day. Almost all of these will have a transitional impact on people’s lives and companies’ bottom lines - and sometimes major impacts, as with many tax and welfare changes, for example.

I hope to turn my research into a policy-relevant handbook that policymakers can turn to for philosophically rigorous guidance about how to construct transition policy packages for major reforms.

I’m also involved in various projects concerning the “just transition” away from fossil fuels for workers and communities especially affected by climate change policies, in relation to which my research is particularly relevant.

What do you hope to do career-wise, long term?

I hope to establish an academic career that spans political theory, political science and law, and to be involved in policy and legal reform processes in the UK and Australia.

What are your top three tips to prospective students on the most effective way to approach research and keep stress levels down?

  • Structure your time each day so that you do your intellectual work only at your most productive times.
  • Get a hobby that has nothing do with your PhD and do it every day (also helps with tip #1).
  • Enjoy the process—it’s probably the only time in your life you’ll get 3-4 years of pure research time.

What resources are available at LSE to help young researchers?

The supervisor should be your first port of call for questions pertaining to your research and thesis, but there are many other resources available via the PhD Academy, your home department, the library and the careers office to assist on research, careers, administrative and pastoral matters.

What do you enjoy most about studying at LSE?

The ever-present sense one gets that people here are doing world class social science research and having real-world impact.