Department of Political Science


Governing the End: The Making of Climate Change Loss and Damage

08 June 2023, 6:30 pm–7:30 pm

Lisa smiles into the camera

Professor Lisa Vanhala's Inaugural Lecture will untangle the complex relationship between deteriorating environmental conditions, high politics and the everyday practices of diplomacy in the United Nations climate change regime. 

Event Information

Open to





Eleanor Kingwell-Banham


Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre
Wilkins Main Building
Gower Street
United Kingdom

Climate change is increasingly accepted as a global emergency creating irrevocable losses for the planet. Different countries experience these losses differently, and reaching even inadequate political agreements is fraught with contestation. The construction of new international legal norms to manage and respond to loss is shaped by this contestation. 

Governing the End untangles the complex relationship between deteriorating environmental conditions, high politics and the everyday practices of diplomacy in the United Nations climate change regime. 

This lecture will present some of the findings of a six-year project based on ethnographic observation of UN meetings and negotiations, as well as more than 150 interviews with diplomats, policy-makers, UN secretariat staff, experts and activists. It will explore both explicit political contestation as well as the more clandestine politics that have brought about the legal outcomes and emergent governance practices known as “climate change loss and damage.” It will elucidate the successes and failures of international climate law and explain where and how power, ideas and materials intermingle and come to matter. 


Please join us for Professor Vanhala's inaugural lecture, followed by a drinks reception.

Lecture: 18:30-19:30
With an introduction by: Professor Chris Hilson (University of Reading)
And appreciation by: Professor Steven Vaughan (UCL Laws)

Drinks Reception: 19:30-20:30


A close up of a video camera with a LED screen showing that it is focussed on a speaker. The speaker and crowd appear blurred in the background
This event will be recorded and the video will be uploaded to our YouTube channel.

Can't make it on the day? Register for the event and you will be sent the link to the video as soon as it is available.


About the Speaker

Professor Lisa Vanhala

Professor of Political Science

Lisa Vanhala is a Professor in Political Science. She holds a DPhil and MPhil in Politics from University of Oxford and spent her undergraduate years at McGill University and Sciences Po Paris. Prior to joining UCL, Prof Vanhala held positions at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies in Oxford and at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at LSE. She has held visiting professorships at the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris; the Center for the Study of Law and Society at the University of California, Berkeley and the European University Institute in Florence. She has held major grants, including a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship, an ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellowship and a European Research Council Starting Grant. 

Prof Vanhala is interested in the politics of climate change and the socio-legal study of human rights and equality issues. Her current, ERC-funded project, the Politics and Governance of Climate Change Loss and Damage (CCLAD), explores attempts to govern the impacts of a climate change that we will not be able to adapt to at the global and national level. Relying on a political ethnographic approach the project explores the role of norms, identities and the micro-level, every day dynamics of global environmental governance.  

Another facet of her work looks at the ways in which civil society organisations engage with the law to shape policy and social change. Lisa's first monograph "Making Rights a Reality? Disability Rights Activists and Legal Mobilization" was published by Cambridge University Press in 2011. The book won the Socio-legal Studies Association and Hart Early Career Prize 2012, and the Best Book in Comparative Politics (Canadian Political Science Association 2012). Since then she has focused on the use of law by organisations interested in environmental issues and climate change, as well as those concerned with human rights and equality.

Prof Vanhala also works as a consultant and learning partner for a number of civil society organisations and philanthropic foundations. This has included work with, for example, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Public Law Project, Access Social Care, Independent Age, Impact Law for Social Justice, the Baring Foundation, The Lankelly Chase Foundation, The Legal Education Foundation and BBC Children in Need. She also sits as a co-opted member on the Sustainable Future Committee of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.    

More about Professor Lisa Vanhala