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Development, Climate, and Sustainability


Focus on issues of development, poverty reduction, energy, environment, and climate change.

Some of the most vexing economic, political, social, legal, and environmental policy challenges the global community faces today require a central focus on development, climate, and sustainability. These challenges are escalating, propelled by a resurgence of nationalism, rising global inequalities, demographic trends, sharpening geopolitical competition, and inexorable climate change. Responses to these challenges are framed within the broader perspective of sustainable development for current and future generations, in developing and advanced industrial countries alike.

The Development, Climate and Sustainability focus area at SAIS prepares students with a sound comprehension of the core concepts of sustainable development in an era of the triple environmental crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and toxification of the planet, provides them with the skills and tools to analyze these problems, and empowers them with the knowledge necessary to discern the complex tradeoffs in formulating public policies to address these challenges. This focus area includes courses that emphasize an interdisciplinary approach involving the social, political, economic, legal and natural science disciplines.

Together with faculty at Johns Hopkins University, students will have the opportunity to gain an understanding of a wide variety of themes, including climate change and its social consequences, the causes of and solutions to extreme poverty, the transition away from fossil sources of energy, inequitable and deteriorating agriculture and food systems, threatened and degraded water supplies and other natural resources, policies for green economic growth, globalization and development, and the ever changing legal and regulatory regimes to face these hurdles. They will also develop critical, analytical, and integrative skills to understand and resolve sustainable development challenges broadly conceived.

Students are required to complete 3 courses for the functional focus area but have flexibility to tailor a course of study. They can select courses across DCS themes, focus on a particular DCS theme to develop a deeper expertise in that area, as well as choose complementary electives in other focus areas.

This focus area is ideal for students interested in a variety of non-academic career paths, including leadership roles in government ministries, in NGOs, in international financial and development institutions such as the World Bank and UNDP, or in the burgeoning private sector engaged in promoting responsible business conduct, climate policy, and clean energy transitions.

Thematic Areas

Develop advanced skills and expertise to address complex development and environmental global challenges.

Economic Development

Students interested in a career in the field of economic development, or in using the tools of economics to understand development issues, can choose to pursue the Economic Development pathway. The students will hone their skills in the empirical methods most widely used in the field, and apply them to a wide range of issues related to development. The primary courses will be listed in both the DCS and IEF focus areas.

HIGHLIGHTED COURSE | Theories of Change in Development: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Energy and Climate Change

Students interested in climate change and the intersection with energy as part of the global decarbonization transition can pursue the Energy and Climate Change pathway. Students will learn about markets and economics, innovation in science, technology, and policy, and the governance of energy and the environment. In addition, students will be able to incorporate the study of region-specific themes and issues, including challenges in the global south.

HIGHLIGHTED COURSE | Energy and Environment in the 21st Century: The Fundamentals of a Global Transition

Finance and Development

Students who hope to work in project finance, microfinance, or development banking can follow the finance and development pathway. Students can learn financial analysis, impact investing, credit risk skills and the broader context of global debt and development issues.

HIGHLIGHTED COURSE | Sustainable Finance and Impact Investing

Social Policy and Development

Students who wish to pursue a career designing, carrying out and evaluating social policies, particularly ones that affect disadvantaged populations, can follow the social policy and development pathway. Students can learn about policy-making in a variety of sectors, including food and nutrition, health, education, migration, children’s welfare and disaster response.

HIGHLIGHTED COURSE | Reimagining International Development for Children and Youth


Study with world-class experts who are renowned for their scholarship, influence, and networks.

Johannes Urpelainen

Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Professor of Energy, Resources and Environment, Founding Director, Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP)

Adam Auerbach

Associate Professor, Faculty Co-Lead, Development, Climate, and Sustainability Focus Area

Nina Hall

Assistant Professor of International Relations

Obiora Okafor

Edward B. Burling Chair in International Law

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Learning alongside the very best.

Jessica Fanzo quoted in Johns Hopkins Hub, 11/12

Global climate negotiations.

Johannes Urpelainen interviewed on Hopkins Podcast on Foreign Affairs, 11/05