Department of Economics

Research student insight

Alaa Al Khourdajie


Alaa Al Khourdajie

  • Department of Economics
  • First supervisor: Professor Michael Finus
  • Second supervisor: Dr Javier Rivas
  • Research title: International Climate Change Agreements and Linkages with Trade Policies

Alaa is conducting research that he hopes will inform policymakers at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and World Trade Organisation on better policy options for welfare-enhancing joint climate and trade agreements.

After completing his Masters in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics at the University of Birmingham, Alaa worked for a few years in the private sector on issues related to the UK climate change and sustainable energy policies.

My work experience as well as my studies has helped me to direct my interests into understanding the underlying reasons for the failure of forming international agreements on climate change.

Alaa submitted a preliminary research proposal to Professor Michael Finus and was successful with his PhD appointment including a tuition fees scholarship at the University of Bath in January, 2013.

Conducting research on climate change

Alaa’s research examines the welfare effects of forming joint coalitions of climate change agreements and different forms of trade agreements, namely free trade areas and customs unions. It also examines the effects of using trade policy tools such as border tax adjustments as instruments in climate change agreements.

I aim to find out whether joint coalitions and policy instruments lead to higher participation in climate agreements and higher emissions reduction.

The motivation of his research is based on the consensus in the literature that the success of pure climate agreements is limited due to the strong free-riding effects they exhibit.

Pure climate agreements provide a public good from which nobody can be excluded and hence non-signatories can benefit from signatories’ efforts without taking part of the agreement. Furthermore, firms in non-signatory countries can also enjoy a comparative advantage in the international markets given that they face no emissions reduction costs.

This research poses many challenges, such as combining two very different skill sets:

  1. a strong theoretical foundation grounded in the game theory literature and
  2. a strong knowledge of the current policy debate around climate change.

I have been, and am still working on developing and strengthening these skills to help my research.

Current projects


Key concepts

Free Trade Areas (FTA) exhibit high incentives for participation due to the benefits of free trade.

Climate change agreements exhibit strong incentives for free-riding.

Joint coalitions of FTAs and climate agreements: The strong free-riding incentives under the climate agreements could be mitigated through the 'linkage strategy' with FTAs.

Boat and windmill

Currently Alaa is working on one of his research papers, in which he examines the implications of forming joint coalitions of free trade areas (FTAs) and climate agreements.

Typically, under FTAs member countries abolish trade tariffs on imports among each other and individually set import tariffs against outsiders. In this paper I am examining the case where member countries will also have to undertake emissions reduction commitments. The implications of such joint coalitions are to be defined in terms of welfare effects, participation and emissions reduction.

Campus life as a researcher

Alaa is enjoying conducting his research at the University of Bath. Recently, he has presented his research in one of the PhD workshops, in which he received useful feedback from members of staff. He is finding the high level of interaction between members of staff and PhD candidates in the Department of Economics to be helpful for his research.

These interactions are facilitated through the internal and external seminars arranged in the department on a weekly basis, as well as during the meetings of the Public and Environmental Economics research group.

As part of the Department’s support to PhD candidates, Alaa has been granted funding for attending several workshops and courses at highly ranked universities and research institutions across Europe. He has also been selected to attend the 5th Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting on Economic Sciences in Germany, August 2014 and his attendance has been supported financially by the department.

Alaa has also been involved with the Postgraduate Association at the Students’ Union, which organises regular academic and social activities for PhD students.

Next steps

Alaa believes a successful researcher has to be determined, very patient, able to work under high pressure and manage their time to meet tight deadlines.

A PhD degree is an intensive training process and one should be entirely focused on it in order to gain and achieve the most.

Once he completes his PhD Alaa plans to continue his career as a researcher and become an expert in climate and trade agreements.

Further information

To find out more about Alaa's research, you can contact him by email:

Related pages


When I'm not researching, my favourite thing to do in Bath is...

Leap List icon

Music festivals

Throughout the year the city of Bath hosts a great mix of music, literature, sport, entertainment and art events.

Find out more about the Bath Leap List »