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Prof Frans Berkhout

Professor Frans Berkhout

Assistant Principal (King’s Climate & Sustainability)

  • Professor of Environment, Society, and Climate

Research interests

  • Environment
  • Geography

Biography

Frans Berkhout is Professor of Environment, Society and Climate at King’s College London. He joined King’s in 2013 and was the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy between 2015 and 2021.

In February 2023, Frans was appointed Assistant Principal (King’s Climate & Sustainability) to drive forward the pace of research, education and action, to enable societal transition to environmental sustainability as a whole-university strategic priority. He leads the university’s strategy to accelerate transformative multidisciplinary research and embed sustainability more deeply into King’s teaching, impact, partnerships and operations. 

He was previously Director of the Future Earth programme, based at the International Council for Science (ICSU) in Paris, and Director of the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) at the VU University Amsterdam in The Netherlands. Before that, he held posts at SPRU (Science and Technology Policy Research), University of Sussex, and was Director of the UK Economic and Social Research Council’s Global Environmental Change and Sustainable Technologies programmes.

Frans holds a BSc in Geography (Leeds, 1983) and a PhD in Science and Technology Policy Studies (Sussex, 1989). He completed his post-doctoral research at Princeton University.

Amongst other advisory roles, Frans was a lead author in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 4th and 5th Assessment Reports (2007 and 2014) and a member of the Social Science Panel of the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

He sits on the editorial boards of Research Policy, Journal of Industrial Ecology, Current Opinion on Environmental Sustainability, Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning and The Anthropocene Review. He is also a Fellow of the Academy of Social Science and shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize as a member of the IPCC.

Frans’ early research was concerned with the economic, political and security aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle. Since then, his work has been concerned with science, technology, policy and sustainability, with a focus on climate change.

Research

  • Systems innovation: the theoretical, methodological and empirical study of change in large socio-technical systems, including energy, transport, agro-food and urban systems. His work is informed by the history, economics and sociology of technical change and is concerned with understanding and informing ‘transitions’ towards more sustainable systems of provision. His recent work has sought to bridge between modelling, transitions studies and action research approaches to understanding transition processes, and to understand the mobility and wider influence of sustainability experiments.
  • Climate change adaptation: research on the incentives, constraints and limits to adaptation by organisations and other social actors. His work is informed by behavioural organisational theory and policy studies, understanding that the adaptive capacity of actors is institutionally-situated. His interest flows from his work in the IPCC on ‘limits to adaptation’ and the application of a risk-based approach that he helped develop for the problem of ‘loss and damage’ in the UNFCCC. He is interested in developing approaches to specifying limits to adaptation that may inform novel approaches to the governance of losses suffered as actors reach such limits.
  • Co-production of knowledge: sustainability science and research deals with deep and complex problems and aims to inform awareness and change. Environmental knowledge is distributed and changes in policy and practice are more likely when researchers and practitioners collaborate in producing knowledge. He has promoted and written about this more integrated approach to knowledge, and his current focus is through PATHWAYS, a Wellcome Trust-funded project aiming to improve urban health equity.

Frans has extensive research, research management and research training experience across a number of fields. His early research was concerned with the economic, political and security aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle and radioactive waste management. His more recent work has been concerned with science, technology, policy and sustainability, with a focus on climate change.

Teaching

PhD supervision

  • Climate change adaptation: measuring effectiveness
  • Limits to climate change adaptation: a risk approach
  • Governance responses to ‘loss and damage’ as a result of climate change
  • The geography of socio-technical transitions
  • Linking analytical approaches for analysing socio-technical transitions
  • Experimenting for sustainability transitions

Further details

See Frans' research profile

    Research

    climate change hero
    King's Climate Research Hub

    Studying climate change through the relationship between science, policy and culture, particularly in the developing world.

    climate change hero
    Climate researchers at King’s

    King's researchers working across climate and sustainability

    News

    Exchanging ideas on key climate actions needed at COP28

    Students, academics, staff and visitors came together to discuss priorities for climate action ahead of this year’s COP28 meeting of world leaders.

    Panel and audience at the SSPP COP28 event Nov 2023

    King's hosts the Centre for Ecology & Evolution symposium

    The symposium was an opportunity for ecologists and evolutionary biologists from across London to share their research on the topic 'Climate change and...

    Centre for Ecology & Evolution symposium 2023, Bush House

    International School for Government hosts European Capitals programme

    Participants had the opportunity to witness the inner workings of government

    Participants outside HM Treasury.

    New installation on the Strand will imagine a climate-positive mythical world

    Acclaimed design studio Superflux and King’s Culture present 'The Quiet Enchanting', an installation inspired by King’s climate and sustainability research

    The Quiet Enchanting Web Resize Oct 2023

    Project to limit the impact of melting glaciers on nearby people and systems

    A new research project led by King’s is working to better support the people and systems downstream of glaciers and limit the melting taking place due to...

    Ice Stupa in India

    Celebrating the King's community driving forward sustainability

    Staff, students and alumni came together at the King’s Climate & Sustainability Awards 2023 to celebrate the efforts of those helping to make King’s a more...

    Group photo taken at the sustainability awards 2023 showing about 100 people holding up SDG boards.

    "I'm not aware of any other Higher Education institution that has a dedicated Net Zero Centre like the one at King's."

    MPs, policymakers and business leaders joined the launch of King’s Net Zero Centre this week.

    Net Zero Centre launch. From left to right:Professor Frans Berkhout, Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP, Dr Elizabeth Rowsell OBE FRSC, Dr Sinead Balgobin, Allan Baker, Christina Rehnberg, Professor Anatoly Zayats

    CASCADE INQUIRY launched with an evening imagining hopeful climate futures

    King’s researchers, artists, students, and the wider community gathered in The Exchange, Bush House to explore the power of imagination and collective action...

    5 panellists in front of yellow-orange lighting and audience with a screen showing "Cascade Inquiry"

    Professor Frans Berkhout appointed as Assistant Principal (King's Climate & Sustainability)

    Professor Berkhout will lead a cross-university drive to rapidly scale King’s response to the climate emergency

    Photo of Professor Frans Berkhout

    Experimental research project CASCADE INQUIRY will explore hopeful climate futures

    CASCADE INQUIRY is an ambitious initiative of experiential projects by Superflux that imagine future worlds where positive climate action has been taken.

    Image with words: CASCADE INQUIRY, in the centre and at the bottom the words: A Superflux initiative supported by King's Culture, King's College London. The left side shows an instalation of plants in a box with purple UV light hanging overhead. The right hand side of the image shows two people round a desk with light yellow light coming through the windows behind them.

    Events

    23AprAfrica Tree

    The debate: Is there a role for offsetting in Higher Education?

    Join this thought-provoking debate on the role of offsetting in Higher Education.

    25JanEFS2

    Education for Sustainability: College-wide Challenges

    This introductory session will serve as a platform to address broad questions regarding teaching, evaluation, and challenges in sustainability education.

    Please note: this event has passed.

    16Novearth hourglass COP28 event SSPP

    COP28: Time for actions not words

    In the run up to the COP28 global climate summit, the Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy is hosting a stimulating and interactive evening centred...

    Please note: this event has passed.

    27Feb780px-Extinction_Rebellion_Oxford_Circus_London_April_19_2019.jpg

    Climate Change: What can we do?

    The AKC will be collaborating with the KCL Climate Action Society to present a Student-Academic-Activist led Panel discussing 'Climate Change: What can we do?'

    Please note: this event has passed.

    08FebSuperflux press

    CASCADE INQUIRY: Exploring hopeful climate futures

    Join King's Culture for a generative discussion introducing CASCADE INQUIRY, a new initiative by Superflux that imagines climate-positive futures.

    Please note: this event has passed.

    02FebBlue background with the King's logo and the text: "King's Business School. King's Climate Action Network. Sustainability Research Interdisciplinary Challenge. Wednesday 2 February 2022, 14.00-16.30. Bush House Auditorium (Hybrid Event). Open to King's faculty, researchers and PhD students"

    Sustainability Interdisciplinary Research Forum

    This hybrid event will showcase sustainability research across King's and explore how interdisciplinary research can be strengthened.

    Please note: this event has passed.

    22JulCC Website Event Image 1

    Climate change and COVID-19: What have we learned?

    As part of our King's Experts Series, join us as we ask our panel: What lessons can we learn from the pandemic when it comes to climate change and the...

    Please note: this event has passed.

    Features

    Halfway to Change: Reflections on the first 6 months of King's Climate & Sustainability journey

    Professor Frans Berkhout, Assistant Principal (King’s Climate & Sustainability), examines the first six months of the King's Climate & Sustainability journey

    Reflections

    'Places without postcards' highlights impact of climate change around the world

    The Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy has created a collection of ‘postcards’ from key places around the globe that tell an important story around...

    places without postcards banner montage incl text 1903 558

    Climate COP27: Do climate summits make a difference?

    Professor Frans Berkhout asks the question: What do they climate summits achieve? And do they make a difference?

    cop27-logo-hero

    'Broader global perspective' needed to tackle climate emergency

    The climate emergency: Do we need a whole new political economy?

    How do we tackle the climate crisis?

      Research

      climate change hero
      King's Climate Research Hub

      Studying climate change through the relationship between science, policy and culture, particularly in the developing world.

      climate change hero
      Climate researchers at King’s

      King's researchers working across climate and sustainability

      News

      Exchanging ideas on key climate actions needed at COP28

      Students, academics, staff and visitors came together to discuss priorities for climate action ahead of this year’s COP28 meeting of world leaders.

      Panel and audience at the SSPP COP28 event Nov 2023

      King's hosts the Centre for Ecology & Evolution symposium

      The symposium was an opportunity for ecologists and evolutionary biologists from across London to share their research on the topic 'Climate change and...

      Centre for Ecology & Evolution symposium 2023, Bush House

      International School for Government hosts European Capitals programme

      Participants had the opportunity to witness the inner workings of government

      Participants outside HM Treasury.

      New installation on the Strand will imagine a climate-positive mythical world

      Acclaimed design studio Superflux and King’s Culture present 'The Quiet Enchanting', an installation inspired by King’s climate and sustainability research

      The Quiet Enchanting Web Resize Oct 2023

      Project to limit the impact of melting glaciers on nearby people and systems

      A new research project led by King’s is working to better support the people and systems downstream of glaciers and limit the melting taking place due to...

      Ice Stupa in India

      Celebrating the King's community driving forward sustainability

      Staff, students and alumni came together at the King’s Climate & Sustainability Awards 2023 to celebrate the efforts of those helping to make King’s a more...

      Group photo taken at the sustainability awards 2023 showing about 100 people holding up SDG boards.

      "I'm not aware of any other Higher Education institution that has a dedicated Net Zero Centre like the one at King's."

      MPs, policymakers and business leaders joined the launch of King’s Net Zero Centre this week.

      Net Zero Centre launch. From left to right:Professor Frans Berkhout, Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP, Dr Elizabeth Rowsell OBE FRSC, Dr Sinead Balgobin, Allan Baker, Christina Rehnberg, Professor Anatoly Zayats

      CASCADE INQUIRY launched with an evening imagining hopeful climate futures

      King’s researchers, artists, students, and the wider community gathered in The Exchange, Bush House to explore the power of imagination and collective action...

      5 panellists in front of yellow-orange lighting and audience with a screen showing "Cascade Inquiry"

      Professor Frans Berkhout appointed as Assistant Principal (King's Climate & Sustainability)

      Professor Berkhout will lead a cross-university drive to rapidly scale King’s response to the climate emergency

      Photo of Professor Frans Berkhout

      Experimental research project CASCADE INQUIRY will explore hopeful climate futures

      CASCADE INQUIRY is an ambitious initiative of experiential projects by Superflux that imagine future worlds where positive climate action has been taken.

      Image with words: CASCADE INQUIRY, in the centre and at the bottom the words: A Superflux initiative supported by King's Culture, King's College London. The left side shows an instalation of plants in a box with purple UV light hanging overhead. The right hand side of the image shows two people round a desk with light yellow light coming through the windows behind them.

      Events

      23AprAfrica Tree

      The debate: Is there a role for offsetting in Higher Education?

      Join this thought-provoking debate on the role of offsetting in Higher Education.

      25JanEFS2

      Education for Sustainability: College-wide Challenges

      This introductory session will serve as a platform to address broad questions regarding teaching, evaluation, and challenges in sustainability education.

      Please note: this event has passed.

      16Novearth hourglass COP28 event SSPP

      COP28: Time for actions not words

      In the run up to the COP28 global climate summit, the Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy is hosting a stimulating and interactive evening centred...

      Please note: this event has passed.

      27Feb780px-Extinction_Rebellion_Oxford_Circus_London_April_19_2019.jpg

      Climate Change: What can we do?

      The AKC will be collaborating with the KCL Climate Action Society to present a Student-Academic-Activist led Panel discussing 'Climate Change: What can we do?'

      Please note: this event has passed.

      08FebSuperflux press

      CASCADE INQUIRY: Exploring hopeful climate futures

      Join King's Culture for a generative discussion introducing CASCADE INQUIRY, a new initiative by Superflux that imagines climate-positive futures.

      Please note: this event has passed.

      02FebBlue background with the King's logo and the text: "King's Business School. King's Climate Action Network. Sustainability Research Interdisciplinary Challenge. Wednesday 2 February 2022, 14.00-16.30. Bush House Auditorium (Hybrid Event). Open to King's faculty, researchers and PhD students"

      Sustainability Interdisciplinary Research Forum

      This hybrid event will showcase sustainability research across King's and explore how interdisciplinary research can be strengthened.

      Please note: this event has passed.

      22JulCC Website Event Image 1

      Climate change and COVID-19: What have we learned?

      As part of our King's Experts Series, join us as we ask our panel: What lessons can we learn from the pandemic when it comes to climate change and the...

      Please note: this event has passed.

      Features

      Halfway to Change: Reflections on the first 6 months of King's Climate & Sustainability journey

      Professor Frans Berkhout, Assistant Principal (King’s Climate & Sustainability), examines the first six months of the King's Climate & Sustainability journey

      Reflections

      'Places without postcards' highlights impact of climate change around the world

      The Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy has created a collection of ‘postcards’ from key places around the globe that tell an important story around...

      places without postcards banner montage incl text 1903 558

      Climate COP27: Do climate summits make a difference?

      Professor Frans Berkhout asks the question: What do they climate summits achieve? And do they make a difference?

      cop27-logo-hero

      'Broader global perspective' needed to tackle climate emergency

      The climate emergency: Do we need a whole new political economy?

      How do we tackle the climate crisis?