Dr. Paola Hernandez Montes de Oca de Sakai

Dr. Paola Hernandez Montes de Oca de Sakai


Paola Sakai is an economist with over 8 years of experience specialising in climate in climate change adaptation and resilience research in developing and developed contexts at the University of Leeds, where she also was awarded her doctorate.  She is an expert on the economic impacts of flooding on SMEs. She investigated the 2015 Boxing Day Floods in the Calderdale Borough, UK, and her results were used by the Flooding Commision of the Council as well as the UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee as evidence on the impact of flooding on SMEs. She has also examined the flood risk mitigation strategies that this type of organisations can take, and sent evidence to the enquiry launched by the House of Commons Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee. She has investigated the interfase between flooded SMEs and the insurance sector, and currently she has an innovative project with the insurance industry and Local Authorities across Yorkshire and the Humber to increase the flood resilience of SMEs. Her other expertise lies in cities where she has focused on collaborative urban strategic planning to tackle the climate change challenge. She is part of the Climate Resilient Cities initiative where she led a successful project about how three cities in three different countries could cooperate to enable climate-resilient development (Triangle-city). Among the legacies of the project was to enable the creation of the first Trinational Economic and Sustainable Development Council in Latin America (CODETRI) which is pushing to work together for a sustainable region. She is part of the Climate Smart Cities team where she modelled the CO2 emissions of the transport and waste sectors in Lima Peru; and was an advisor of the CSC in Calgary, Canada. She has also experience in climate services as she has examined how the UK water sector used climate change information to make adaptation decisions.

Paola was awarded with a prestigious UKRI Research and Innovation Fellowship where she is developing the strategic case for enable collaborative action to build resilience in resilient urban infrastructure at a city scale, exploring the synergies between disaster risk reduction and improvements in productivity, economic growth, employment, environmental quality, and human well-being. This research will focus on the Leeds city area, seeking to draw lessons that can be applied more broadly to other cities in the UK and abroad. The research is directly informing and leading the Climate Resilience Working Group of the Leeds Climate Commission. She has been ensuring a strong stakeholder engagement to maximise policy uptake, increase climate resilience and the economic productivity of UK industries, and produce a positive impact in the lives of the UK cities' inhabitants, and beyond. Her results are being tested in the Strategic Health Asset Planning and Evaluation tool of PHE to enable cross-council collaborative strategic planning towards increasing the climate resilience, health, well-being and development of Leeds. 

She also teaches in an online bases in the Faculty of Economics in the National Autonomous University of Mexico since 2004. 

Current projects:

03/2020-present     Co-Investigator, University of Leeds
Project: Improving flood risk communication through engagement tools. Co-I of a project that aims to deliver engagement tools to promote resilient behaviours in communities vulnerable to flooding across Yorkshire. 

01/2020-present      Co-Investigator, University of Leeds
Project: Environmental science to promote public health and wellbeing. Co-I of a project that aims to integrate environmental data into a tool developed by Public Health England to enable collaboration and promote climate resilient decision-making.

11/2019-present     Principal Investigator, University of York
Project: Bridging gaps to boost resilience on SMEs. PI of a project that on the one hand, is working with WYCA and LAs across Yorkshire and the Humber to develop a methodology to assess the economic costs of flooding on SMEs; and on the other hand, is working with the insurance industry to develop a tool to assess the effectiveness of SMEs flood resilience. 

10/2019-present      Co-Investigator, University of Leeds
Project: Yorkshire Property Flood Resilience Pathfinder. Co-I of a project that aims to increase the effective uptake of PFR across Yorkshire. communities, planning and construction professionals, the construction industry and the insurance sector to deliver behaviour change that will lead to the increase in the usage of property flood resilience measures (PFR) across the Yorkshire Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (YRFCC) area

01/2018- present      Principal Investigator, University of Leeds
Project: The economics of climate resilient infrastructure. I was awarded a UKRI Research and Innovation fellowship to focus on developing the economic case for investing in resilient urban infrastructure at a city scale, exploring the synergies between disaster risk reduction and improvements in health and well-being, and equitable economic development. The case study is Leeds and I am working with the Leeds Climate Commission leading the Climate Resilience Working Group.

Research interests

Paola is interested in climate change adaptation and resilience research in developing and developed contexts. Her work has produced impactful results in cities and SMEs. She specialises in climate vulnerability where she has investigated the synergies between disaster risk reduction, improvements in health and wellbeing, and promotion of inclusive growth. Her work in cities places particular attention to evidence-based collaborative strategic planning and city-to-city cooperation to create resilient cities and food systems; climate finance and economic assessments of weather-related events, climate-compatible development and SDGs.


<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Leeds
  • BSc (Hons) Economics, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)
  • BSc Business Administration, Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM)
  • Graduate Diploma in Stock Finance, Mexico Autonomous Institute of Technology (ITAM)
  • Graduate Diploma in Planning, Programming and Budgeting (UNAM)

Professional memberships

  • Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP) – Associate Researcher
  • Priestley International Centre for Climate – - Research Associate
  • Climate Resilience Working Group of the Leeds Climate Commission - Research Associate
  • Weather and Health Impact Cross-Council group of Public Health of the Leeds City Council - Research Associate
  • Air Pollution and Health board of the Leeds City Council - Research Associate
  • Water@Leeds – Research Associate
  • Global Food and Environment Institute -Research Associate
  • University of York -Honorary visiting researcher
  • Laboratory of Climate Change and Statistics Modelling, Quintana Roo University, Mexico (LACCME) – Associate Researcher

Research groups and institutes

  • Sustainability Research Institute
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>