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David Harnesk

PhD Candidate - Member of LUCID Research School

Current Research

The science is certain about the significant dangers of human-induced global warming and that substantial reductions of carbon emissions from road traffic are necessary to mitigate the detrimental and unevenly distributed impacts of climate change. As a supra-national authority, the European Union (EU) has put much political faith into substituting fossil fuel with biofuels as a viable alternative to reduce carbon emissions in the transport sector. When seen as agrofuels they even represent a geopolitical response to multiple crises. But biofuels have also become deeply criticized by academics and activists alike for being harbourers of adverse social impacts on rural livelihoods in the Global South and for not living up to environmental claims. Despite persistent critique, EU policy-makers have, through biofuel regulation, adopted the position that managerial and self-regulatory approaches like private certification systems and sustainability standards are sufficient safeguards against these impacts.

The problem that my PhD thesis addresses is dual. First, it is deeply problematic that biofuels, in spite of their dubious environmental claims, are persistently pursued as a means for climate change mitigation, especially since this impedes the implementation of alternative meaningful carbon emission reduction measures in the transport energy system. Second, the expansion of biofuel markets exacerbates social problems faced by a rural population in the Global South, especially as it tends to shift prime land-use towards agricultural intensification. In the thesis, I apply a solutions-oriented research approach to the dual problem, and seek to answer how geographical aspects of energy may explain why liquid biofuels are persistently pursued as an alternative to fossil fuels. To deal with the inescapable materiality of energy and the need for social change, I develop an approach to sustainability science that draws on emancipatory social science and critical realism.

Teaching and Supervision

Since 2012 I have been teaching and supervising students for undergraduate and master courses in a variety of courses at Lund University. These include:

  • Energy and Sustainability
  • Climate, Science and Society
  • Gender and Sustainability in Theory and Everyday Life
  • Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science: Master’s Thesis
  • Governance of Sustainability
  • Economy and Sustainability
  • Social Science Lab
  • Methods for Climate Risk Management
  • Sustainable development from a local, regional and global perspective
  • Environmental Science: Industrial Environmental Economics
  • Environmental Science: Instruments for preventative environmental protection


Harnesk, D. & Isgren, E. 2018 (upcoming). Envisioning Real Sustainability: enriching sustainability science with emancipatory social science. AAG Annual Meeting, New Orleans, April, 2018. Up-coming oral presentation.

Harnesk, D. 2016. Energy Regulation on the Move – the Expanding Economic Geography and Power of the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification. The Asian Conference on Sustainability, Energy and the Environment 2016, Kobe, June, 2016. Oral presentation.

Harnesk, D. 2015. What kind of, and whose, sustainability counts? – Implications of EU’s Renewable Energy Directive in sub-Saharan Africa. Biofuels and (ir)responsible innovation: tensions between policy, practice and sustainable development, Eindhoven, April, 2015. Oral Presentation.

Harnesk, D. 2014. Biofuel policy and stakeholder perspectives – initial impacts of EU sustainability criteria on the Swedish biofuels sector and implications for land use. GLP Second Open Science Meeting, Berlin, March, 2014. Oral Presentation.

Workshops and Outreach Activities


Nyhetsbrevet Apropå 2017 Storsatsningar på biodrivmedel skapar svårigheter för småjordbrukare. Lund, October, 2017.

Harnesk, D., Brogaard, S., Sjöberg, Ö. & Tambang, G. Y. 2017. Workshop om global handel med biomassa, Stockholm, September, 2017.

Harnesk, D. & Brogaard, S. 2015. EUs hållbarhetskriterier, hur hållbara är de? Avslutningskonferens – Bränsleprogrammen, Stockholm, May, 2015. Poster presentation.



Page Manager:
David Harnesk
David Harnesk
E-mail: david [dot] harnesk [at] lucsus [dot] lu [dot] se

Doctoral student

LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)

Wrangel, 210

Wrangel, Biskopsgatan 5, Lund


P.O. Box 170, SE-222 70 Lund, Sweden
Phone: +46(0)46- 222 80 81
info [at] lucsus [dot] lu [dot] se