Department of Political Science


Academic leads appointed for the UCL Grand Challenge of Climate Crisis

7 December 2023

Professor Lisa Vanhala (Political Science) and Professor Mark Maslin (Geography) have been appointed as Pro-Vice-Provosts to lead the new UCL Grand Challenges Theme of Climate Crisis

UCL portico and quad in the summer


Two academic leads have been appointed as Pro-Vice-Provosts to set the strategic direction of the new UCL Grand Challenges Theme of Climate Crisis. Professor Lisa Vanhala (UCL Political Science) and Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography) will jointly lead the programme, the second of the new Themes to launch.

The UCL Grand Challenges programme was established in 2008, with the aim of bringing a cross-disciplinary, thematic approach to tackling some of the most pressing social problems. The UCL Strategic Plan 2022–2027 sets out the university’s commitment to grow the scope and scale of the Grand Challenges programme, covering not only research and knowledge exchange but also UCL’s approach to education and its institutional operations. The programme will develop an integral approach to how UCL understands and responds to the biggest issues facing humanity, inform and enable our partnerships, and offer context and critique for how universities can make a positive impact on the world.

The Strategic Plan identifies five new Grand Challenges Themes: Mental Health & Wellbeing, Climate Crisis, Data-Empowered Societies, Inequalities and Intercultural Communication, to be launched sequentially over the next four years. Pro-Vice-Provosts leading the Mental Health & Wellbeing Theme were announced in October.

Professor Vanhala is Professor of Political Science, with a background in climate change and the political and legal landscape of human rights and equality issues. Her current project explores attempts to address the losses and damages associated with climate change. Lisa has worked extensively with civil society and philanthropic organisations, including the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Public Law Project and a range of charities.

Professor Maslin is Professor of Earth System Science at UCL and the Natural History Museum of Denmark. He is a leading scientist with particular interest in understanding climate change and the major challenges facing humanity in the 21st century.  Mark works extensively with businesses and the media, and regularly appears on radio and television. His most recent book is How to Save Our Planet: The Facts published by Penguin in 2021.

As joint Pro-Vice-Provosts, they will provide academic leadership to the new Theme, and support new collaborations, both within UCL and with external partners. In a joint statement, they said:

"The climate crisis is an unprecedented threat to people and the planet but it also represents a historic opportunity for innovation and transformation. We look forward to supporting UCL’s long-standing and emerging experts on climate change and contributing to the building of a dynamic and diverse community of scholars, students and professional staff committed to addressing this challenge together."

Professor Geraint Rees, Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement), said:

"I’m delighted to welcome Professors Vanhala and Maslin to their new roles leading the Grand Challenges Theme of Climate Crisis. As the governments of the world and other stakeholders gather at COP28 to discuss what can be done to address devastating climate change, there is no better reminder of the urgency of this mission, nor of the need for universities to unite their expertise in tackling the issue. As the Grand Challenges seeks to harness our collective abilities across the whole of UCL’s community, these appointments are a demonstration of our commitment to using our research and insight to benefit the global community, as well as to influence our education and institutional operations."

To register your interest in the Grand Challenges Theme of Climate Change, please contact rige@ucl.ac.uk.


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