Congratulations! Three IKEM staff members earn PhDs

Congratulations to Dr Kathleen Pauleweit, Dr Michael Kalis and Dr Greta Reeh, who recently completed earned their doctoral degrees! Below, the new PhDs discuss their research topics, which include the role of environmental NGOs in international climate negotiations (Pauleweit), the role of courts in climate change mitigation (Kalis), and the principle of non-refoulement in the context of UN treaty bodies (Reeh).

Kathleen Pauleweit, a research associate who divides her time between the Sustainability and Innovation Department and the Energy Law Department at IKEM, completed her PhD at the University of Kassel in March 2022. Her doctoral research examines the role of environmental NGOs in the implementation and enforcement of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Global Climate Change. Her dissertation focuses on the involvement of environmental NGOs in international climate negotiations and the potential for these organisations to promote treaty compliance, especially at the international level.

‘For many of the NGOs that participate in UN negotiations, the goal is to accelerate the shift to a climate-friendly, zero-emission economy,’ Pauleweit said. ‘In my dissertation, I was able to conduct extensive research on their influence and procedural status in international climate governance.’

‘Knowledge of these rights of participation is helpful in understanding how associations like IKEM can encourage binding state decision-making within the framework of the United Nations,’ she continued.

Michael Kalis, who is both a senior research associate for IKEM’s Research Academy and a researcher for the ‘Energy’ cluster at the Interdisciplinary Research Centre for Baltic Sea Research (IFZO), completed his doctoral programme at the University of Greifswald under the supervision of IKEM Director Prof. Dr Michael Rodi. In his thesis, he addresses the role of courts in climate change mitigation, basing his analysis on climate lawsuits in Germany. In particular, he examines whether climate change mitigation is an issue that can be brought before the courts in Germany and whether courts are suitable for deciding such disputes. He concludes that climate change mitigation can indeed be brought before German courts and analyses the German Federal Constitutional Court’s decision of 24 March 2021.

‘It was extremely exciting to research the topic of climate change mitigation in the courts. The topic is highly relevant today, but it will play a much greater role in the future,’ said Kalis. ‘These “climate lawsuits” pose considerable challenges for the law and for the courts. Even after the Federal Constitutional Court announced its climate decision, key legal issues haven’t been clarified conclusively.’ Kalis added that he will continue to study the questions raised in his thesis as part of his research at IKEM and at IFZO.

Greta Reeh, a senior research associate for IKEM’s Research Academy, completed her doctoral research at the University of Potsdam under the supervision of Prof. Dr Andreas Zimmermann. In her thesis, she examines the potential for treaty bodies to reflect and influence developments in customary international law, taking the principle of non-refoulement as an example. Her dissertation represents the first comprehensive overview of the treaty bodies’ application of the principle of non-refoulement.

‘Working on this project made it clear to me how much I enjoy research,’ said Reeh. ‘At the same time, I enjoy exploring current research questions that have practical relevance. I’m happy to have found a place at IKEM that allows me to research current social issues, and to do so in an interdisciplinary environment with smart and motivated colleagues. In the future, I’d like to contribute my knowledge of international law even more to IKEM’s research.’

The Role of Environmental NGOs in the Implementation and Enforcement of the Paris Agreement on Global Climate Change, by Dr Kathleen Pauleweit; Justitiabler Klimaschutz in Deutschland – Welche Rolle spielen Gerichte im Klimaschutz?, by Dr Michael Kalis; and Das menschenrechtliche Prinzip des Non-Refoulement vor den Vertragsorganen der Vereinten Nationen, by Dr Greta Reeh, will be published later this year.


IKEM – Institute for Climate Protection, Energy and Mobility e.V.