Professor Jon Lovett


I hold the position of Chair in Global Challenges. My research focuses on the institutional economics of natural resource management and takes an interdisciplinary approach bringing together both the natural and social sciences. I am interested in the links between local and international law and policy and the practical aspects of implementation of global agreements. I work in many different countries with recent projects in Nepal, Lebanon, Tanzania and Mexico.

For information about the MOOC that Jon is running which starts on 19 October 2015: 'When Worlds Collide', watch the trailer and visit the teaching section at the bottom right of this page. 

My main interest is natural resource management and I maintain a broad collaborative interdisciplinary environmental research programme. In the 1980s my research was on ecology and biography. This work resulted in formulation of the Eastern Arc as a phytogeographic unit and globally recognized biodiversity hotspot; and also led to the development of the ‘stability’ hypothesis explaining high biodiversity and presence of phylogenetic relicts in the forests.

During the 1990s I developed a research group in York working on environment, climate change and natural resource management, particularly in Nepal, Tanzania and Mexico. From 1996-2002 I was the senior environmental advisor on the Lower Kihansi Hydropower Project in Tanzania, leading a team investigating the impact of this major World Bank funded project on an area of high biodiversity. During the project we discovered a number of new species, including the narrowly endemic Kihansi Spray Toad, which was at the centre of an international controversy over loss of its habitat.

From 1999-2006 I was the environmental specialist on the UK Department for International Development Programme Advisory Committee for the Natural Resources Systems Programme. After the long period of fieldwork in Tanzania during the 1980s and early 1990s I developed an interest in institutional economics, and in 1996-1997 I was on the Joint ESRC-NERC committee on environmental economics, and in 2009 I was seconded to Natural England under an ESRC award as the environmental economist on the NE Chief Scientists team.

I am currently a member of the Natural England Science Advisory Committee. My more recent work has been on renewable energy, and whilst working in the Netherlands I advised the Dutch Foreign Ministry on market-based solutions to technology transfer in the run-up to the 2008 UNFCCC CoP in Poznan, drawing attention to the ‘Porter Hypothesis’ and the role of environmental regulation in enhancing competiveness and innovation. In 2011 I was part of the team devising the draft energy strategy for the African Development Bank.

Five universities from across Africa and in the UK came together on 27 september 2013 in Brazzaville to form an African Clean Energy Research Alliance to create a new network for clean energy technologies. The partnership is funded by a grant from the UK Royal Society and Department for International Development awarded to the University of Leeds in collaboration with the Université Marien NGouabi, Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology, Makerere University and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

Professor Jon Lovett, who is leading the project at the University of Leeds, said today in Brazzaville that ‘There are more than 625 million people with no access to modern energy services in Sub-Saharan Africa, and most African countries – 42 in all – are net energy importers with fossil fuel-fired plants accounting for 81% of total electricity generation’.

The network will focus on capturing and converting solar energy through three different systems: solar photovoltaic, concentrated solar power and biomass from natural photosynthesis. Professeur Bernard M’Passi Mabiala, Université Marien NGouabi, said ‘Africa cannot be developed without cheap clean efficient energy systems, research is needed to enable African countries to manufacture their own appropriate solar power technologies. Training and capacity building through this project will help scientists and graduate students to achieve this goal.’

Dr Richard Opoku, from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana said ‘The sun only shines during the day, so we need to develop storage systems to access the solar energy that has been captured. Concentrated solar power uses heat energy from the sun to generate electricity, and we can store this heat in thermal capacitors using phase change materials. Then we can run the turbines at night using the stored solar energy.’

Mary Suzan Abbo, from the Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation in Uganda said that ‘Increasing access to modern types of energy is critical for rural transformation. Most people in Sub Saharan Africa live in rural areas and are currently without access to grid electricity. This research will enable energy planners and policy makers to consider locally available innovative renewable energy sources to create an energy mix for rural electrification for productive use.’

Dr Consalva Msigwa, from the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology, Tanzania, said ‘One of the biggest challenges is integrating electricity from a range of different generating systems. The crucial issue here is the optimization and control of these decentralised renewable energy sources to get a stable and reliable output for scaling up for grid input.’

Sarah Colenbrander, who coordinates the Africa Clean Energy Research Alliance on behalf of the University of Leeds, added, “We will seek support for young African researchers to conduct north-south and south-south collaborative projects to build our partners’ technical capacity. We hope that this consortium provides a long-term research network around the all-important issues of energy access and climate-friendly development.”

Jon is running the University of Leeds' Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for the third time in October 2015 - When Worlds Collide.

For more information about the MOOC and to register click here
Please note the date on the flyer is from the previous MOOC - the start date is 19 October 2015



2012- Chair in Global Challenges, School of Geography, University of Leeds

2007-2012 Professor of Sustainable Development in a North South Perspective, University of Twente, The Netherlands

1994-2009 Senior Lecturer in Environmental Management, University of York and Director, Centre for Ecology, Law and Policy (2002-2009)

1992-1994 Centre for Tropical Biodiversity, University of Copenhagen

1990-1992 Consultant to DANIDA and NORAD, Forest Management, Tanzania

1984-1990 Missouri Botanical Garden Tanzania Programme, Tanzania

1982-1984 WWF Tropical Forests and Primates Programme, Tanzania

1979-1982 Commonwealth Forestry Institute and Botany Department, Oxford University

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

Research groups and institutes

  • Ecology and Global Change
  • River Basin Processes and Management
  • Social Justice, Cities, Citizenship