International Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP)

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Master's projects by students in the Duke Kunshan International Master of Environmental Policy program.

The masters project is done in partial fulfillment of the degree requirements for the professional Internaional Master of Environmental Policy degree. While the MP may include original laboratory or field research, it may also take the form of management plans, handbooks, educational curricula, or other such products. Each student is advised by a faculty member who reviews and approves the project prior to completion.

A masters projects that is original research should not be as large as a masters thesis although it should be of publishable quality but not necessarily comprehensive enough to stand alone as a publication. A masters projects that does not follow the usual format for scientific research should follow a framework that is considered good practice in an appropriate field.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 15 of 15
  • ItemOpen Access
    Green Is Not Enough: A Management Framework for Urban Biodiversity Friendly Parks
    (2023-05-05) Hu, Min
    The potential of cities to conserve biodiversity is increasingly gaining more recognition and cities mainly contribute to biodiversity through planning and managing urban green spaces (UGS), for example, urban parks. Research finds that the ability of UGS to support biodiversity depends on several factors, and management activities are one of them. Urban parks are important urban infrastructures and are under a high level of management. Proper management after planning and construction is significant for meeting human needs as well as providing suitable habitats for wildlife. Therefore, understanding how urban parks are managed and operated is critical for urban biodiversity enhancement but accepts insufficient attention in China. This research focuses on the management stage of Chinese urban parks and tries to answer: how could urban parks effectively enhance biodiversity by changing management practices? Through identifying the improvement spaces and exploring the root causes including government failure and market failure, I propose a policy suggestion of a certificate of urban biodiversity friendly parks and generate a management framework as a tool for urban parks to make changes.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Model the Hidden Cost of China’s 2060 Carbon Neutrality: Potential Biodiversity Impacts of Wind and Solar Energy Expansion
    (2023-05-04) Zhou, Zhijie
    Large-scale renewable energy deployments, as urgent solutions to mitigate climate change and its consequences, are reshaping the landscape in the human-environment nexus. Albeit promoted as pathways to bend the curve of biodiversity loss through their emission reduction and habitat restoration potential, renewables require significant land assets per unit energy and could impose high cost to ecosystems, triggering potential conflicts between global climate mitigation and biodiversity conservation. As China expanding its landscape of large-scale wind and solar energy facilities to fulfill its ambitious “2060 Carbon Neutrality” goals, an assessment of the potential areas of such concerns at a high resolution can provide insights for stakeholders to effectively manage biodiversity impacts of renewable power transitions. This project used suitability analysis to identify and predict the potential land use conflict between wind and solar energy expansion and biodiversity conservation in China under the 2060 announced pledge scenario in contrast to the biz-as-usual model of renewables expansion rate. We also quantify the biodiversity impacts of such expansion scenarios by estimating the mean richness and rarity scores, along with ecosystem service values and conflicting zones with Key Biodiversity Areas. Although our results indicated the renewables expansion under China’s ambitious goals tend not to encroach a high ratio of prioritized areas for biodiversity, the potential impacts in regions without the strictest protection are still worth investigation, as illustrated in our case studies for the Qilianshan-Qinghaihu Region and Hainan Province. The study provides insights for decision-makers to develop renewable energy facilities while protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Exploring the Perceptions of Local Citizens towards the Hangzhou Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) Program and its Outcomes
    (2023-05-02) Li, Ying
    This paper highlights the issue of a large number of stray cats in China and emphasizes the need for proper intervention to prevent further problems. The Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program policy has been implemented in many countries to control the overpopulation of stray cats, which has proven to be effective. However, in China, the TNR program has only been implemented in a few mega-cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and others. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the perspectives of local citizens on the Hangzhou TNR program, including its necessity and results. To achieve this, surveys and qualitative interviews were conducted to capture the viewpoints of both supporters and opponents of the program. The research collected information from a diverse group of citizens to gain a comprehensive understanding of public attitudes towards the TNR program for the stray cat community. Surveys are particularly valuable in providing insights into public perceptions and support for the program. They can reveal people's knowledge and experiences with stray cats, their assessment of the effectiveness of the TNR program, their level of support for the program, and their recommendations for improving it. Interviews were also conducted with local animal protection non-governmental organizations (NGOs), hospital directors, and relevant businesspersons to gain insight into their knowledge of the TNR program. Additionally, a survey was conducted to gather data on local citizens' perceptions and attitudes toward stray cats and the TNR program. The collected data were analyzed to evaluate the effectiveness of the TNR program in reducing the number of stray cats in Hangzhou, China, while considering and improving the current dilemma.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Spatial Variation of Greenhouse Gas Abatement Potential and Cost in Domestic Hot Water
    (2023-04-28) Yao, Tianzhi
    Urban water systems have complex sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Due to its high energy consumption and intensity, domestic hot water contributes significantly to GHG emissions in the residential sector. A transition towards cleaner water heating, such as heat pumps, could dramatically reduce carbon footprint. This study investigates the spatial variation of GHG abatement potential and cost in domestic hot water across the European Union (EU). The abatement potential and cost of the same abatement scenario vary from country to country due to different economic and social contexts. Therefore, the optimal scenario for domestic hot water in each country is determined in consideration of national circumstances. Results show that climate and electricity grid mix are essential factors contributing to spatial variation. Findings suggest that the EU could phase out subsidies for traditional water heaters and replace them with incentives for heat pumps and solar water heaters.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Impacts of Governors’ Early-life Heatwave Experiences on Local Environmental Performance
    (2023-04-28) Li, Jiahuan
    As a main outcome of climate change, heatwave events have increasingly caused both physical and psychological trauma to human beings. This research investigates the mental influence of early-life heatwave experiences on the personalities of top managers and the subsequent impact on organizational performance. Specifically, the study examines whether public sector governors with early-life heatwave exposure promote local environmental outcomes during their tenure. Employing an ordinary least-squares (OLS) approach, the empirical analysis utilizes two unique datasets comprising the biographical experiences of 4018 municipal governors over the past 50 years and the pollution levels of 288 cities between 2000 and 2016. This study provides clear and robust evidence that early-life heatwave exposure significantly reduces jurisdictional CO2 emissions by 1.1% and PM2.5 pollution by 2.1%, despite variations in heatwave criteria. These findings supplement the top management literature and challenge the current belief of the public unawareness of climate change.
  • ItemOpen Access
    A Guideline of China’s City-Level Decarbonization Planning --- With a Case of an Island City in Northern China
    (2023-04-28) Yi, Siying; Lu, Yifei
    Urgent action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate global warming, which leads to ecosystem degradation, extreme weather events, and economic and human risks. The Paris Agreement's goals can be achieved by establishing emission reduction targets and decarbonizing the economy. China, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, aims to reach carbon peaking by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. Urban areas account for 85% of China's emissions, making it crucial for cities to adopt decarbonization measures to fulfill the national targets. Therefore, many city governments have developed decarbonization plans to explore low-carbon development opportunities. Based on a client project, this policy report focuses on the Chinese context and aims to provide practical knowledge for urban development planners, policymakers, and the public interested in decarbonization issues. The report clarifies the concept of decarbonization planning and provides a comprehensive planning guideline, including greenhouse gas inventory, future emissions forecast, setting decarbonization targets, and developing action plans specific to the region. To illustrate the practical application of the proposed guidelines, the report also includes a case study of an island city in northern China. The GHG inventory shows that the study area's emissions decreased by approximately 56% from 2016 to 2021, primarily due to the promotion of electrification in various industries. The LEAP model-based emissions forecast for the next 40 years reveals the feasibility of the island city achieving carbon neutrality by 2035 under a stringent low-carbon scenario. Based on this analysis, we design and compile a decarbonization action plan for the island city, presenting information on guiding ideology, principles, cross-cutting strategies, necessary decarbonization initiatives for specific sectors, and capacity-building guarantee systems.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Using Different Response of Freshwater Algal Biomass to Limnological Parameters to Improve Harmful Algal Bloom Early Warning Strategies
    (2023-04-28) Ren, Yuxiang; Zhu, Anfeilin
    Harmful algal bloom (HAB) is a type of disastrous phenomenon taking place across the globe caused by certain overgrowing phytoplankton species that break the ecological balance in waterbodies. Early warning is a crucial step within the whole picture of HAB management, yet given that HAB can be caused by different algal species due to their distinctive optimal reproduction environment, few studies and policies have scrutinized such differences, leaving current early warning mechanisms less comprehensive. Based on 15 global long-term freshwater monitoring datasets, this study examines the relationship between algal population and major limnological parameters including total nitrogen, total phosphorus, nitrogen: phosphorous ratio, and water temperature. Results have indicated genera and species under the division Bacillariophyta and Cyanophyta are the most commonly observed alga across all lakes. Based on the locally weighted scatterplot smoothing technique (LOWESS) techniques, the paper has also found significant differences between division, genus, and species of dominant alga in terms of all four aforementioned limnological parameters. To enhance future HAB early warning mechanisms, management personnel and policy makers should focus on enhancing the taxonomic specificity of biomass monitoring and nitrogen: phosphorous measurement. Additionally, management efforts of each lake should be spent on the lakes’ unique dominant alga with significant differences along their taxonomic hierarchies.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Co-effects of Transportation Means and Air Quality on Neurological, Pulmonary, and Cardiovascular Function
    (2021-04-15) Ong, Gui Xian; Zhang, Yang; Wang, Huaping
    The guidelines on outdoor activities in the presence of air pollution vary. We aim to find out the effects of walking and air pollution among young adults. We conducted a randomized, 3-session cross-over trial, with 28 healthy Duke Kunshan University (DKU) students. Between October 2020 and February 2021 on days with varying air quality levels, students walked or took the bus from DKU to Scholars Hotel in Kunshan, China. Indicators of neurological function (reaction speed, visual memory, verbal memory, and numerical memory), pulmonary function (PEF, FEV1 , FVC, and FEV1 / FVC), and cardiovascular function (systolic pressure, diastolic pressure, and heart rate) were tested before and after the interventions. The paired t-test findings revealed that walking was beneficial for pulmonary function, with an average PEF increase of 40.29 ± 84.87 L/min (p<0.05). On the other hand, air pollution decreased diastolic pressure by an average of -3.85 ± 5.30 mmHg (p<0.05) and numerical memory by an average of -2.27 ± 2.37 points (p<0.01). The regressions results showed that air pollution was associated with statistically significant decreases in cognitive and pulmonary function. An increase in PM 2.5 (1 µg/m3 ) was associated with decreased numerical memory (-2.32 points; p<0.05) and a unit increase in AQI was correlated with decreased FEV 1 (-6.71 L; p<0.05). On the co-effects of walking and air pollution, our evidence was inconclusive. Walking outdoors during air polluted days may negatively affect pulmonary functions and neurological functions, while its effect on cardiovascular functions is not clear. Being cautious, individuals may refrain from exercising in air polluted environments to avoid potential negative health impacts. Nonetheless, we are unable to make strong inferences towards such behavioral recommendations due to the limited effect size.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Voluntary Contribution to public goods: Evidence from herdsmen’s contribution preference to ecological protection in Nature Reserves in China
    (2020-05-10) Wu, Tianqi
    The growing number of livestock has become a new threat to the ecological environment and wildlife in China’s biodiversity hotspots, especially for panda habitats. As China has announced the establishment of a giant panda national park that connects 67 giant panda reserves, there is an urgent need to control livestock and protect forests to ensure panda conservation and local economic development. Given the difficulties and inefficiency of governing multiple uses and users of local commons in these areas, there is an opportunity for local governance and collective management, such as cooperatives. This requires cooperation and coordination, which is never guaranteed. In this study, we explore herdsmen’s propensity for cooperation in the management of common property resources by conducting a framed public goods game among rural communities in Baishuijiang and Wanglang National Nature Reserves in Gansu and Sichuan province. We also explore how variation in socioeconomic factors may explain differences in contribution preferences of participants by asking them to fill out a survey related to social-demographic variables, grazing experience, trust level among community members, household income, and consumption upon completion of the experimental procedure. We find that the cooperation rate reduces to different degrees when there is a risk in returns and uncertainty on public return will lead to a greater reduction. We also find expected cooperation among peers is a big driver of voluntary cooperation. We do not find a significant relationship between trust levels and cooperative behavior. Also, we find that income and education do not have a significant impact on individual behavior. But we find that gender, ethnicity, and location can affect cooperative behavior.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Just Transition in China: How Did Chinese SOEs Avoid the Massive Unemployment While Reducing Coal Capacity (2015-2020)?
    (2020-05-09) Rong, Weijun
    The transition from fossil fuel to a low carbon economy is the main way to mitigate climate change. However, this will also inevitably impact the workers in the fossil fuel industry and their communities. This study focused on China’s recent round of phasing out coal capacity and investigated how China’s coal SOEs reallocated workers after reducing coal capacity by case studies of two SOEs in Anhui and Shanxi. In addition, it also evaluated the reallocation and mobilized the perspective of workers in these two SOEs by in-depth interviews with both leaders and workers. It finds that these two SOEs mainly reallocated layoffs by reemployment within SOEs and early retirement. It is just in the sense of high reemployment rates but questionable to call it a transition because most of the worker is still working coal mining and coal-related industries.
  • ItemOpen Access
    How Do Chinese Grassroots NGOs Fight Local Pollution? An Organizational Perspective
    (2020-05-06) Wang, Yumin
    In recent years, the Chinese government started to encourage more stakeholders to participate in the environmental protection field. However, little information told us what role grassroots non-governmental organizations (GNGOs) can play in the environmental protection field. In this study, the development history of two GNGOs were traced in parallel. The two GNGOs were both established by environmental journalists who wished to mitigate local pollution. However, the development history of the two GNGOs were totally different. I found that two external factors could explain this difference: government’s different willingness on pollution mitigation and the severity of the pollution. In order to mitigate the local pollution, both of the two GNGOs reached out to different stakeholders, especially government agencies, for cooperation. For the government, this cooperation is beneficial to fulfill their environmental protection responsibility. For the two GNGOs, the cooperation is a stable source of legitimacy, which is critical for GNGO’s survival when they worked on pollution mitigation, a relatively controversial field in China. The cooperation, however, strongly depends on founder’s personal relationship with different stakeholders. This dependency brought both of the two GNGOs into the trap of elite governance.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Assessing Ecological Civilization Performance: An Application of Systematic Economic-Ecological Accounting (SEEA)
    (2019-04-28) Wang, Fanyu
    China's central authority has included constructing ecological civilization among the top-five development strategies of China, but there is no well-developed tool to assess the the local governments' performances on ecological conservation or provide sustained incentives for the local officials. This paper shows that the Systematic Economic-Ecological Accounting (SEEA), an accounting system that records the productive and asset activity of both man-made and ecological capital of the society, is a necessary and feasible assessment tool for ecological civilization. Framework of the accounting system and potential improvements built on current studies are provided. An experimental case that calculates the value of the annual ecosystem services in Kunshan, a county in Jiangsu Province, demonstrates the application of the accounting framework and methods within the current data limitation.
  • ItemOpen Access
    A Teaching Case on Chinese Local Environmental Governance
    (2019-04-29) He, Liuyang
    The local primary goals for top leaders in Luowen County have transitioned from economic growth to environmental protection to poverty alleviation since 2005. As the head of county environmental protection bureau, what could Yang Deqiang do when he got into the dilemma when performing his duty in environmental protection discordant with following his superior for achieving other policy goals out of his hands? Are there any solutions from a bigger picture?