MSc in Climate Change – Policy Track

MSc in Climate Change - Policy Track


Why to study MSc in Climate Change – Policy Track

Build your skills to take on global challenges

The Master’s in Climate Change (MCC) is a two-year programme, featuring specialised newly developed courses across a range of climate change topics, supplemented by key courses already offered through PAU and PAUWES. The initial (semester 1) focus of the MCC is on the intersection between climate change – both mitigation and adaptation and development. Thereafter (semesters 2 and 3), students move into one of two tracks: a Policy track and a Technical track.

The Policy Track of the programme provides advanced training in the policy and planning dimensions of climate change, along with an understanding of the value of ethical and responsible governance.

MCC Student profile

The policy track of the Master’s in Climate Change is open to candidates with a license degree or equivalent, or a master’s degree from a renowned institution, and they will be selected by an international selection committee. The Policy Track allows students from diverse student backgrounds including for example, Science, Technology, Law, Social Sciences and Economics, to be accepted into the programme.

MCC Overview

Courses have been designed to complement and build on one another over the two-year period, with four semesters of 30 credits each. The programme thus totals 120 credits. The programme includes mandatory PAU courses as well as already operational PAUWES courses, in addition to the newly developed climate change focused courses.

Semester 1

Low Carbon Climate Resilient Development

This is a foundation course on which all other courses in the Master’s in Climate Change are built. It is applicable for both the policy and science streams.

The course presents an overview of the Anthropocene and introduces the concept of sustainable development. It then outlines the overarching climate policy landscape and presents the concept of low carbon climate resilient development and the three associated dimensions, viz., adaptation, mitigation and development. The course also provides an outline of needed systems transitions for low carbon development, focussing on the need for just transitions and the required social buy-in for interventions to be effective. Key areas of climate resilient transitions relevant to Africa are explored in more depth.

Essential overarching readings as part of the Master’s in Climate Change are provided at the end of the course outline and students are expected to familiarise themselves with at least two of these alongside the required readings.

Number of Credits 6

Climate Science for Policy and Practice

Evidence-based climate policy, plans, strategies, and actions need to be informed by climate science – here defined as the physical and biogeochemical functioning of the climate system and the ways that human and natural forces and feedbacks drive global and regional climate change, along with methods that measure and model the climate system. This course will provide the student with the high-level understanding of climate science needed for involvement in international and regional climate negotiations, and for development and implementation of national and sub-national climate policy and strategy.

Number of Credits 6

Policy Analysis

Policy Analysis is a core module for both the Water and Energy Policy Tracks. Students learn policy analysis from the perspective of policy process, policy desirability, policy tools, and policy evaluation. The course enables learners to understand and discuss the logic of public policies, constraints in implementation and impact of policies in developing countries. The course uses both normative and empirical analysis. Examples and exercises are provided from water and energy areas including various case studies. The study of each policy area (water and energy) will emphasise the differences in policy responses and the effects of policies.

Number of Credits 6

African History

This course aims to provide students with a solid foundation on Africa’s historical experiences and realities. It surveys how African social and political institutions have developed over Africa’s greatly varied geography in the light of economic and environmental change over the last few millennia. Furthermore, it covers issues related to colonialism, nationalism, African states and the African identity. Finally, it equips students with a generic base of skills for the general study of history.

Number of Credits 4

Research Design and Methodology

This course equips students with the tools necessary to conduct their own studies. It is structured in four main sections: After identifying different approaches and traditions within the philosophy of science as the foundation for further research design construction, the course will discuss the pivotal role of asking a good research question to describe and explain empirical puzzles. The third and most extensive section is devoted to the process of arriving at good answers. In this section, sub-topics include the choice of an appropriate research design including an introduction to different types of research designs – both quantitative and qualitative – in social research, the process of case selection as well as collecting empirical evidence. Moreover, the different stages of the research process will be discussed. In the final section, students will apply acquired knowledge and skills by constructing a coherent research design on a topic of energy or water policy individually or within small groups. A draft of this research design will be evaluated and discussed within the seminar group, while the final proposal serves as the written assignment for the course.

Number of Credits 5

Transdisciplinarity for Climate Change

There is a pressing need to develop capacity in Africa to produce climate change research that can be used for decision-making to steer development pathways towards more climate compatible and resilient development. This requires new ways of knowledge development, learning and innovation, which are encompassed in transdisciplinary approaches. Wider competency in transdisciplinary thinking and skills will help contribute to solutions to complex climate change and sustainability challenges by building stronger linkages between research, policy and decision-making, and practice. Transdisciplinarity focusses on breaking down traditional disciplinary boundaries and the separation of science and society to solve complex and ‘wicked’ problems, such as those related to climate change and sustainable development, through working closely with multiple stakeholders in knowledge co-production processes.

This course introduces transdisciplinary thinking and research by providing the conceptual basis and understanding required for transdisciplinary work. A core focus is to develop the practical competencies and soft skills that are so critical for the successful application of this engaged and relational research approach. Transdisciplinary thinking builds capacity for problematising and researching climate change and development issues in Africa, as well as contributing to solutions to these problems alongside society. The course explores the shift to, the nature of, and the challenges related to employing transdisciplinary thinking and research to address climate change challenges at the nexus of science, policy and society. In essence, the goal of this course is for students to understand the complexities, interconnectedness, and uncertainties of the world we live in today and the new, more systemic, ways of thinking, researching, and working that acknowledge and accommodate this complexity. The course also supports the application of such an approach in the student's own research projects.

Number of Credits 1

Entrepreneurship and Intrapreneurship

Entrepreneurship is often regarded purely as business management, resulting in entrepreneurship education content that primarily focuses on developing business management skills. This approach limits the development of entrepreneurial potential in other sectors such as government and civil society and effectively excludes other disciplines from acquiring much needed 21st century skills. This course regards entrepreneurship as a transversal process and covers content that encourages students to be entrepreneurial – a combination of skills and mindset that unlock particular attitudes and behaviours. These include having a growth mindset (versus a fixed mindset), having a hunger for lifelong learning and applying critical thinking skills to problem solving. The course equips students with the knowledge of how to spot opportunities and generate ideas, learning in part from African cases.

The unprecedented rate of change and complexity in society requires entrepreneurial thinkers that are constantly learning, therefore, instilling a habit of lifelong learning is crucial. Critical thinking, one of the essential 21st century skills according to the World Economic Forum, promotes understanding and more effective discussions; it provides students with the ability to identify problems and equips them with the concepts and vocabulary to explain errors or poor logic. Critical thinking is therefore key to problem solving and one of the sources for effective idea generation. Business management generally relies heavily on information to make informed decisions, but in the quest to be intra- or entrepreneurial, information alone is not sufficient. The ability to spot opportunities and generate ideas from information to fulfil a need, is what makes entrepreneurial students more valuable. This course therefore aims to prepare students with problem solving skills (finding solutions to urgent challenges), critical thinking skills (thinking clearly, rationally and systematically), opportunity spotting skills (seeing the unseen and generating value from that) and idea generation skills.

All of the above requires practice and time to develop and so this course aims to ignite interest and perhaps unlock a hunger for becoming entrepreneurial. It also aims to start equipping students to be habitual critical thinkers, problem solvers, opportunity spotters and idea generators by teaching basic tools and techniques to achieve these objectives.

Number of Credits 2

Semester 2

Climate Change Mitigation (Policy Focus)

Climate change mitigation is a complex problem that requires cooperation between developed and developing countries, who have different shares of historical and current global GHG emissions. The course enables the student to identify the sources of GHG emissions and evaluate how they can be reduced. It provides an understanding of the energy resource options, their benefits and limitations. It offers an overview of Integrated Assessment Models and their importance in the context of climate change mitigation as well as an understanding of the importance of Measurement, Reporting and Verification in a developing country context. It considers the key policy instruments essential for mitigating climate change and policies relevant to different sectors and governance levels, including both international and local levels. It affords the opportunity to acquire policy development expertise and concludes by highlighting the importance of just transitions and climate governance, which are particularly relevant in an African context. The climate change mitigation course also contributes to the provision of a new generation of leaders who can drive Pan African integration. This will ensure that Africans are able to contribute meaningfully to international climate related scientific and policy discourse from an African perspective and will support diverse African experiences.

Number of Credits 6

Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction (Policy Focus)

The climate change projections of the IPCC, under even the most optimistic emissions reduction scenarios, indicate that climate change hazards will be experienced with increasing intensity and frequency, making the need to adapt a global urgency. However, given historical inequalities and unequal development trajectories, it is clear that there are countries or regions that will be affected more than others. Most at risk are the post-colonies of the Global South which are often characterized by high levels of poverty and inequality. Africa, in particular, is facing a future of increased extremes in temperature, drought, flooding, and desertification. Given the rich resource-base (natural, social and cultural) of the continent, and a dynamic and youthful population, the continent is also potentially the site and source of the innovative thinking and action required to address climate change. There is a need for African ways of CCA & DRR that draw on local and indigenous ways of knowing and doing.

The course is structured according to the main stages of an adaptation planning process, as it deals sequentially with the following stages: 1) understanding the hazards, risks and impacts; 2) understanding local vulnerabilities; 3) evaluating the existing and potential options for CCA & DRR; 4) assessing the existing or potential barriers and enablers to these options from national policy to the community level; 5) assessing the feasibility of the options; 6) selecting the appropriate options; and 7) creating the enabling environment and planning for implementation. These stages will be covered by both the theoretical content of the course as well as through practical application of concepts and tools that will also count toward assessment for the course. Therefore, this course equips students with the knowledge and skills necessary to identify context specific risk and vulnerability to climate change, and through this develop appropriate policy and planning responses that will lead to sustainable and equitable adaptation and disaster risk reduction interventions on the ground.

Regarding the latter, the course will set certain parameters for choosing an appropriate site to develop into a proposal for a hypothetical adaptation plan and set of actions for implementation. This will require the student to critically apply concepts and choose appropriate methods. The parameters set for this case-study will determine a site in Africa that is considered as being vulnerable, both from a social-economic perspective and to climate change. For example, students could select a site that is characterized by extreme changes in temperature that will likely lead to water scarcity, which in turn will affect the livelihoods of natural-resource dependent communities, with experiences differing amongst different social groups and primary livelihood activities. An example of the guidelines for such a written assignment will be provided separately.

Number of Credits 6

Climate Governance

Climate change presents profound governance challenges from local to global scales. In many instances, the responses needed to deal with climate change will require fundamental changes in our governance systems. This course will explore how governance arrangements and instruments can support, encourage and drive (or prevent) public and private institutions in acting to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to limit the extent of climate change (mitigation) and to prepare for the effects of climate change that cannot be avoided (adaptation). The focus of the course is largely on governance at national to sub-national levels, but where relevant, international governance is also covered.

Number of Credits 6

Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning for Policy And Practice

As actions to adapt to the impacts of climate change and to reduce GHG emissions are increasingly implemented across the African continent, there is a need to track implementation, assess whether intended objectives are met and learn from experience. Monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) seek to gather and interpret information about implementation to assess progress and identify areas for improvement. The importance of M&E has also been recognized in the Paris Agreement which encourages “Monitoring and evaluating and learning from adaptation plans, policies, programmes and actions” (Article 7.9.d). For mitigation, GHG emission reporting in the form of national GHG inventories is mandatory and climate finance providers often seek verification of achieved emission reductions.

MEL can be applied for different purposes and at different application levels (community, project, sectoral or national level), to specific actions or to policies and plans. There is, therefore, no one size fits all approach to M&E, but a set of key considerations can guide the development of useful M&E systems. The course will first introduce the role of MEL for implementation and policy making before outlining the main approaches to assessing progress on mitigation and adaptation. Specific aspects related to the measurement and understanding of progress will be discussed to promote a critical reflection on the usage and limitations of common M&E approaches.

MEL is often viewed as an add-on or an afterthought, but it is closely connected to the development of climate actions or policies. In order to fulfil its ascribed functions of steering management, providing accountability and facilitating learning, MEL needs to be well designed. Instead of a “tick-the-box exercise”, MEL systems need to be developed in an inclusive way that considers the information needs of different user groups, integrates the target audiences and is linked to decision making processes. Issues of MEL under resource-constraints and pragmatic approaches to MEL are also discussed. Overall, the course provides a comprehensive overview of current practices and debates regarding the systematic tracking of the implementation of adaptation and mitigation actions and how MEL can help to improve them.

Number of Credits 4

Climate Finance and Policy

In addition to political will, the availability of consistent, reliable and sufficient climate finance at scale will ultimately determine our ability to avoid dangerous climate change and transition to the low-carbon, climate resilient society we desire. The climate finance landscape has evolved significantly in the last decade, moving beyond sources such as the multilateral climate funds and UNFCCC mechanisms. Climate finance issues traverse both public and private spheres increasing the complexity of decision-making for policymakers and financiers in terms of instrument design, enabling frameworks and impact. The course will provide the student with an introduction to the salient climate finance issues, the relevant finance methodologies and both a policy and practitioner perspective.

Number of Credits 4

Career Internship Seminar

This is an action-based, practical course. Therefore:

  • the contact hours are focused on facilitating the student’s actions towards securing an internship opportunity (not lecturing);
  • the student readings and resources are practical, internet-based, drawing from reputable work placement agencies; Readings and assignments are done asynchronously – students need to be prepared before the class starts.

Number of Credits 1

Project Design and Management

This course cultivates skills and expertise in designing, planning and controlling projects. It examines the project management life cycle, defining project parameters, management challenges, project management tools and techniques, and emphasizes the project manager’s role.

The course will guide students through the fundamental tools of project management and skills necessary to devise, launch, lead, and implement successful projects in profit and non-profit organizations. Successful project managers possess the skills necessary to manage their teams, schedules, risks, and resources to produce desired outcomes. Students explore project management with a practical and pragmatic approach through project implementation, case studies and class exercises.

Number of Credits 2

Writing Skills for Policy and Policy Analysis

This course provides students with the skills and techniques necessary to shape the policy process through written communication. Thereby, it explores different styles and formats of policy writing with a hands-on approach. After an introduction to the role of writing in the policy process, students study different formats of policy writing and their respective argumentative, structural and stylistic characteristics. Subsequently, students work in groups to structure and formulate comprehensive policy papers based on real-world policy problems from the field of energy and water policy. In doing so, students practice the task of collaborative writing. The last topic of the course, writing a short policy brief, serves as a final written assignment.

Number of Credits 1

Semester 3

Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (Policy Focus)

Agriculture is central to food security, either as a source of food and/or as an income generating and livelihood opportunity. Climate change is having significant impacts on agricultural systems (cropping, livestock, and aquaculture), thereby posing a serious threat to regional, national and household food security. Agriculture, in turn, also serves as a substantial source of greenhouse gas emissions exacerbating global warming and climate change. The interactions between climate change, various types of agricultural systems and food security are complex and context specific, calling for tailored responses across countries, agricultural sectors, and types of farming systems (e.g., subsistence, smallholder versus commercial, intensive versus extensive). This module provides an overview of the complexities at the nexus of food production, security, and climate change, while articulating the synergies between adaptation and mitigation for promoting more resilient agriculture and, consequently, improved regional, national and household food security. It also considers how these complexities are dealt with in pan-African, regional, and national policies and what type of enabling environment will be needed to support more climate smart and resilient agricultural systems. A variety of responses (actions, options, and opportunities) aimed at reducing net GHG emissions in the agricultural sector and/or the risks of climate change on production are presented and interrogated in terms of their applicability in different contexts and sectors. In doing this, the module recognises the need for policy and action to integrate indigenous/traditional knowledge and practices with modern science and technology.

The case studies and individual and group assignments built into the module will provide an opportunity for the students to undertake a piece of original, analytical work in a topic related to climate change, agriculture, and food security, focussing on the policy dimensions. The assignment task may be designed to address a specific issue across several countries and in the student’s own country.

Number of Credits 4

Climate Change and Urban Systems (Including Transportation)

This course will familiarise students with climate change and development challenges and opportunities presented by urbanization in Africa and equip them to provide advice on urban development decisions, with a focus on urban transportation. Students will systematically work through how climate impacts, adaptation and mitigation, as well as broader agendas of systemic change (in which climate change is seen as one of many drivers of change) intersect with the key dimensions of urban development, placing particular attention on transport and mobility.

The topics of the module will be grounded in two case studies focussing on urban climate adaptation / climate resilient development and urban climate mitigation / low carbon development. These cases may change on an annual basis, depending on the teaching staff and guest lecturers. One case will focus on adaptation and mitigation options in the urban transportation sector, highlighting questions of synergies and trade-offs. The other case study will unpack the process of developing an integrated, multi-sectoral climate change strategy and action planning at the city scale. Based on available literature the two cases could be the cities of Accra, Bobo Dioulasso, Cape Town, Dar es Salaam, Durban, Kampala or Saint Louis.

Number of Credits 6

Climate Change, Biodiversity and Ecological Systems (Policy Focus)

Science basis

The course will provide an overview of biodiversity responses to climate change. This will comprise a brief introduction to biodiversity, the threats to biodiversity and the sixth extinction, before moving on to explaining the main responses of biodiversity to climate change: changes in distribution, adaptation (phenological and genetic) or extinction. The course will then move on to exploring the main approaches to assessing the vulnerability of biodiversity to climate change, specifically correlative, mechanistic, trait-based approaches, and combinations thereof. This scientific underpinning will provide the basis for exploring the policy context.

Policy context

The course will introduce students to important global (e.g., the CBD), continental, regional and national policies related to biodiversity, ecosystem services and climate change and provide the opportunity to critique these as well as identify gaps and new approaches. The interface between climate change and biodiversity policies will be the main focus, particularly in relation to the African continent.


The third section of the course will focus on the conservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of critical ecosystem services in a changing climate. There will be an overview of climate-change integrated conservation strategies. The three main approaches covered will be: 1) spatial approaches, 2) species / habitat-based approaches (e.g. trait-based approaches), and 3) social-ecological approaches (e.g. Ecosystem-based Adaptation). Case studies will be used for illustration, for example WWF’s trait-based approach. Other locally appropriate examples could be explored. Here, students can choose a case study to research and present as part of the course delivery.

The final section will focus on the social aspects of biodiversity conservation in a changing climate, starting with an overview of how biodiversity conservation underpins ecosystem services. Examples of Ecosystem-based Adaptation and other responses will be explored, again giving students the opportunity to focus on areas or ecosystems of particular interest to them. The module will finish with an overview of how biodiversity conservation interfaces with aspects of sustainable development and the SDGs.

Number of Credits 4

Sanitation and Health

The purpose of this course is to give students in-depth knowledge of water and sanitation infrastructures, water access problems and risks associated with water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Number of Credits 4

Water-Energy Nexus and Climate Change

The course equips students with knowledge of the interactions, synergies and trade-offs between the water-energy nexus and climate change. The course sets a foundation by explaining the water-energy nexus and how it relates to climate change. A brief exploration of the underlying mechanisms of the water-energy nexus and physical science basis of climate change is followed by a step-by-step and detailed description of how climate change is projected to affect water resources and energy systems and the potential consequences for the water-energy nexus, food and energy security and, in turn, sustainable development.

Additionally, the course teaches the technological, socio-economic and policy responses to overcome the challenges within the water-energy nexus in the context of a changing climate. The students apply their knowledge and skills to analyse the impact of climate change on the water-energy nexus in a specific case study.

Number of Credits 4

Financial Management

Infrastructure development in the energy and water sectors is dependent on public sector funding. Recent years have witnessed a trend of curtailing public budgets, affecting the availability of funding for infrastructure projects and leading to the current infrastructure gap. Overcoming this gap is possible through different financing methods. The aim of this course is to present the students with the costs and benefits of these financing methods, enabling them to understand which one is appropriate for different contexts.

To achieve these objectives, the course will first introduce basic financial tools and concepts to understand the decision-making process that characterises the choice between different investments. Building on these instruments, the course will then focus on the main funding mechanisms available to infrastructure investments, namely corporate and project finance. Regarding the latter, particular attention will be paid to public private partnership agreements and the various forms they can take.

Number of Credits 4

Climate Policy Thesis Proposal Seminar

This is a practical course that is structured to follow on from the learning outcomes of CEWP2 and C3, using the knowledge gained in those courses to write up and present a research proposal, and produce a final research proposal.

Number of Credits 1

Human Rights and Gender

The course aims to provide students with knowledge of the relationship between gender and human rights both within the African and international systems. It explores origins, development and challenges of integrating gender into human rights law discourse and practice. Focusing on international protection of women’s human rights as an example, the course introduces students to relevant international bodies and instruments.

Number of Credits 2

Ethics, Leadership and Accountability

The course considers ethics, leadership, leadership dilemmas and accountability issues that can arise when an individual’s values conflict with those of an organisation, or when a situation requires decisions with competing or conflicting values. The focus is on ethical issues that leaders have to deal with including ethical dilemmas in decision making. Effective leadership in Africa, and the subsequent emergence of Africa, depends on ethical leadership and accountability. Many African countries face challenges arising from accountability problems that have led to bad governance. The course examines leadership principles, theories and styles. Within this course, students use case studies, their own experiences and current events to examine actions leaders have taken and consequences they have faced. Students work on real-life issues of transparency and accountability, examine underlying reasoning of the problems, identify and analyse ethical dilemmas, and develop action plans for solving and preventing similar problems at the organisational and societal levels.

Number of Credits 1

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Internships are an integral part of the degree that students earn at PAUWES.

The PAUWES internship programme is an important vehicle to advance student skills and professionalism toward achieving their desired future career.

It consists of two internships:

  • Summer (also called career) Internship
  • Students do it during their summer break (at the end of the first-year master), during the Summer Internship students can test and apply the skills they acquired during their studies in a real-life situation and tailor these to the specific field they have chosen. This experience will help them to narrow down their job preferences and define their professional profile. We strongly encourage students to reach companies and do their summer internship
  • The Research Internship (also called data collection Internship)
  • Students do it at the beginning of their Master Thesis (MT) in the fourth semester. The Research Internship will allow students to collect data on-site for their MT (find case studies, conduct interviews, take measurements or perform experiments, etc.). It provides students with the opportunity to get to know their research subject personally or allows them to work directly with their supervisor at his/her workplace. PAUWES internship program provides various channels for support.

Career Prospects of PAUWES Graduates

PAUWES curricula aims to equip future graduates with knowledge, skills and attitudes that allow them to be competitive in both the employment market and in academia if they choose to pursue doctoral studies. Owing to their methodical approach and their governments’ clear vision and policy, developed countries have a strong demand for graduates with profiles similar to the ones produced by PAUWES. The job market for such profiles has long been limited in Africa. However, there is an increasing number of employment opportunities as a consequence of the boom in start-up companies and foreign direct investments witnessed in the past decade across Africa.

Some examples of positions that can be filled by PAUWES graduates in energy, water and policy.

Climate Change Technical Track:

  • Research and Academia: expanding the knowledge field through new research, including transdisciplinary research;
  • Evidence based strategic planning;
  • Skilled technical expertise in specific areas or sectors.

Climate Change Policy Track:

  • Research and Academia: expanding the knowledge field through new research, including transdisciplinary research;
  • Policy development, strategic planning;
  • Policy implementation and monitoring and evaluation of policy implementation;
  • Skilled technical expertise in specific areas or sectors.


Contact Info

Pan African University Institute of Water and Energy Sciences - PAUWES

c/o Tlemcen University, B.P. 119 | Pôle Chetouane, Tlemcen 13000



M: +213 43 41 04 35

F: +213 43 41 04 99

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African Union Agenda 2063

A strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. It builds on, and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development. These include STISA 2024, the Lagos Plan of Action