Duncan McLaren

I am currently a Research Fellow at the Emmett Institute in the School of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).  My research interests explore the justice and political implications of novel technologies, including climate engineering, circular economy, and smart cities. I have served on many policy and research advisory committees and consulted for a range of clients including not-for-profit campaigns, philanthropic donors and investors. 

In a previous career, I worked as an environmental researcher and campaigner, most recently as Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland from 2003 to 2011. 

I obtained my PhD in Environmental Science from Lancaster University, examining the justice implications of climate geoengineering in 2017, under the supervision of Professor Gordon Walker

I am a member of the Climate Social Science Network, collaborating in the development and promotion of critical social science on climate procrastination and obstruction.

​Other current positions

Co-Convenor, CSSN Net Zero Working Group

Frontiers in Climate Associate Editor 'Carbon Dioxide Removal'

Editorial board member, Local Environment: International Journal of Justice & Sustainability (from 1996). Advising on editorial positioning, and peer reviewing articles for publication.

Past Positions include

Research Fellow, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University (2017-2022), Devising, funding and implementing research projects on politics of carbon removal and international security implications of solar geoengineering. 

Frontiers in Climate Topic Editor (2020-2022) 'Security Politics, Risk and Climate Geoengineering’ 

Visiting Lecturer & Researcher (30%), Linköping University, Sweden (2019-21) Exploring political economy of circular economies through literature review, interviews and deliberative workshops.

International Advisory Board Member, LC3M (Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation), University of Sheffield (2017-21). Advising a collaborative research project on carbon removal through enhanced weathering.

Technical Advisor, Virgin Earth Challenge, London (2013-18) - Supporting the development and application of the carbon removal challenge criteria and guidelines.

Member, SPICE Project Stagegate Panel, advising Research Councils (2012)

Representative Member, Energy Research Partnership (2011-16) - advising the UK Government on energy technology research and development.

Chief Executive, Friends of the Earth Scotland - Edinburgh UK, (2003-11). Managed a small independent national environmental NGO with 16 staff and financial turnover of around £0.5 million, accountable to an elected Board. Personally raised up to £100k a year in project funding. Listed amongst Scotland's 50 most influential individuals by the Scotsman in 2008, and in Scotland's inaugural 'Green List' in 2009. Successfully drafted and delivered multiple amendments to the Scottish Climate Change Act 2009. Lead successful campaigns for renewable energy targets (2010), for world-leading Scottish climate legislation and targets (2009), against nuclear power (2007), against waste incineration (2006) and for increased recycling and waste prevention (2005). Repeatedly invited to give evidence to parliamentary inquiries, provide media commentary, write opinion pieces in the national press, and to speak at national events on key sustainability policy issues.

Member, UK Research Councils’ Energy Programme Scientific Advisory Committee (2005-2015) - helped oversee the Energy Research Dialogue in 2006 and the NERC Geo-engineering dialogue in 2010.

Non-executive Director at Environmental Law Centre Scotland (2009-2011)

Member of UK Green Fiscal Commission (2007 - 2010)

Non-executive Director at Changeworks, Edinburgh (2003 - 2011)

Head of Policy and Research, Friends of the Earth Trust Ltd, London, UK (2000-03). Established and developed a strategic policy function, successfully initiating new programs on corporate accountability, economic modernization, trade and sustainability and environmental justice. Called to give evidence to Parliamentary Environmental Audit and Trade and Industry committees. Coordinated FOE delegation at successful Bonn Climate Convention summit, July 2001. Initiated and coordinated lobbying program leading to 20 UK Government budget reforms in three years. Co-coordinated global NGO input to OECD review of Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises leading to improvements in the Guidelines’ content and implementation mechanism. Lead-authored ‘Tomorrow’s World: Britain’s share in a sustainable future’ (Published by Earthscan in 1998, and reissued in 2009).


PhD (Environmental Science) (2017) Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, UK. ·  Researching the justice implications of climate engineering. Utilising findings from public deliberation, analysing framings and discourses.  Thesis included five published/submitted papers.

Masters in Business Administration (2002) Judge Institute of Management, University of Cambridge Cambridge UK. Awarded national Ashridge prize for best MBA essay on the role of business in society, November 2002, based on dissertation ' Engagement Practices in 'socially responsible investment': Competing paradigms of governance, and the emergence of standards'.

MSc Rural Resources and Environmental Policy Wye College, University of London 1987

BA Hons Geography Pembroke College, University of Cambridge 1986. First Class Honours. Awarded University Prize and College Foundress Prize for Final Dissertation 'Agriculture, community and conservation in a Dartmoor parish'.