School of Earth and Environment

James Van Alstine Dr James Van Alstine

Assoc Prof: Environmental Policy; Programme Manager: MSc Sustainability (Environmental Politics and Policy)

Telephone number: +44(0) 113 34 37531
Email address:
Room: 10.104

Affiliation: Sustainability Research Institute


James Van Alstine is Associate Professor in Environmental Policy and Co-Director of the Sustainability Research Institute (SRI). With a disciplinary background in human geography, James draws upon organisational and institutional theories as well as political economy and political ecology to explore human-environment interactions at multiple scales. His research focuses on natural resource governance and politics, corporate social responsibility and international development, community-driven accountability and social justice, and climate change governance.

James seeks to bridge the academic-practitioner divide by pursuing action-oriented research that aims to maximise policy and pro-poor development impacts. For example, he currently leads a three-year (2012-2015) donor-funded project with local partners that explores opportunities for community-driven accountability in Uganda’s oil-bearing regions. He works closely with development partners, policy makers and regulatory agencies at the international, national and local levels, as well as with industry, NGOs and communities. James’ research spans the Global North and South, including Brazil, Ghana, Ireland, South Africa, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States and Zambia.

Prior to joining SRI in 2008, James was a fellow in environmental policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), where he completed his PhD on corporate environmentalism in the South African petrochemical industry. He is a member of the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, which is co-hosted by LSE and the University of Leeds, and is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. James is also a writer, editor and team leader for the International Institute for Sustainable Development's Earth Negotiations Bulletin at United Nations multilateral environmental negotiations. James holds an MSc in Environmental Assessment and Evaluation from LSE and a BA in Philosophy from Northwestern University in the US.

Current and recent research projects

  • 2014-2015: Primary Investigator, UN institution-building and sustainable development: Rio+20 follow up and the High-Level Political Forum; funded by the British Academy
  • 2013-2014: Co-Investigator, Developing compatible energy and climate strategies; funded by the World Universities Network
  • 2013-2018: Co-Investigator, Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy: Phase II work package on governing rapid transitions in mitigation and adaptation; funded by the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • 2013-2014: Commissioned report, Localising transparency: Exploring EITI’s contribution to sustainable development; supported by the International Institute for Environment and Development
  • 2012-2015: Primary Investigator, The Governance of Hydrocarbons in Uganda: Opportunities for Community-Driven Accountability in the Albertine Rift Region; funded by the Democratic Governance Facility
  • 2012-2013: Primary Investigator, Developing a research agenda for the study of the politics of good governance in the emerging petro-economy, Uganda; funded by the British Academy
  • 2008-2012: Primary Investigator, Rights, Risk and Responsibility: Building Capacities for Community-Company Engagement in the Extractive Industries;funded by the Alcoa Foundation

Research interests and areas of supervision

  • Natural resource governance and politics
  • Corporate social responsibility and international development
  • Community-driven accountability and social justice
  • Climate change governance and the politics of low carbon transitions

PhD students

Claire Bastin: New forms of governance and the sustainability of ‘new coal’

Arturo Andersen Chinbuah: A study of the physical economy of selected developing countries of West Africa

Will Davies: Scale in environmental policy: exploring stakeholder perspectives of Arctic offshore petroleum

Ross Gillard: Governance of rapid transitions in mitigation of and adaptation to climate change

Laura Smith: The impact of oil capital on spaces of governance in Uganda’s Albertine Rift region

Sam Wright: Natural resource governance in the arctic: stakeholders’ perceptions of risks and benefits in Greenland’s extractives industry


James is the Programme Leader of the MSc Sustainability (Environmental Policy and Politics) and manages the following modules in the School of Earth and Environment:

James also contributes teaching to the following modules: