Photo of James Meadowcroft

James Meadowcroft

Environmental politics and policy; Energy and climate policy; Energy transitions and decarbonization pathways; Governance for sustainable development

Degrees:BA (McGill) DPhil (Oxford)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 2214
Office:5139 River Building

Brief Biography

James Meadowcroft is a Professor in both the Department of Political Science and the School of Public Policy and Administration. He recently completed a 14-year term as a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Governance for Sustainable Development. Meadowcroft has written widely on environmental politics and policy, democratic participation and deliberative democracy, national sustainable development strategies, and socio-technical transitions. Recent work focuses on energy and the transition to a low carbon society and includes publications on carbon capture and storage (CCS), smart grids, the development of Ontario’s electricity system, the politics of socio-technical transitions, and negative carbon emissions. Meadowcroft’s research has been funded by the UK ERSC, SSHRC, NSERC, the Ivey Foundation, McConnell Foundation, and Carbon Management Canada. He has supervised PhD students working on a variety of environment and energy-related topics including North American air pollution, the politics of biofuels, decarbonization pathways and energy futures.

Meadowcroft is currently Research Director, alongside David Layzell and Normand Mousseau, of the Transition Accelerator, which utilizes a world-leading four-step methodology to engage diverse societal stakeholders to co-create visions of what a socially and economically desirable net-zero future will look like and build out transition pathways that will enable Canada to get there. As a result of his work with the Accelerator, Meadowcroft regularly presents to senior government officials, industry leaders, and civil society groups to build momentum to make the changes needed to address climate change. Meadowcroft also leads Efficiency Canada — an independent, pan-Canadian think tank that conducts rigorous policy analysis, communicates compelling narratives, and convene and mobilize Canada’s dynamic energy efficiency sector to make our country a global leader in energy efficiency policy, technology, and jobs.

Meadowcroft has served as co-editor of the International Political Science Review (1999-2007) and Associate Editor of the Journal of Political Ideologies (2006-). He holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Tampere in Finland.

Recent edited collections

A photo of a book entitled Multilevel Environmental Governance, Managing Water and Climate Change in Europe and North America. Edited by James Meadowcroft and Inger Weibust

Multilevel Environmental Governance:
Managing Water and Climate Change in Europe and North America

The literature on Multi-level governance (MLG), an approach that explicitly looks at the system of the many interacting authority structures at work in the global political economy, has grown significantly over the last decade. The authors in this volume examine how multilevel governance (MLG) systems address climate change and water policy.

DOI: 10.4337/9780857939258

Conceptual Innovation in
Environmental Policy

Concepts are thought categories through which we apprehend the world; they enable, but also constrain, reasoning and debate and serve as building blocks for more elaborate arguments. This book traces the links between conceptual innovation in the environmental sphere and the evolution of environmental policy and discourse. It offers both a broad framework for examining the emergence, evolution, and effects of policy concepts and a detailed analysis of eleven influential environmental concepts.

ISBN: 9780262534086

A photo of a book entitled What Next for Sustainable Development? Our Common Future at Thirty. Edited by James Meadowcroft, Erling Holden, Kristin Linnerud, David Banister, Oluf Langhelle, and Geoffrey Gilpin.

What Next for Sustainable Development?
Our Common Future at Thirty

This book examines the international experience with sustainable development since the concept was brought to worldwide attention in Our Common Future, the 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. Scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds engage with three critical themes: negotiating environmental limits; equity, environment and development; and transitions and transformations. In light of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals recently adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, they ask what lies ahead for sustainable development.

ISBN: 978 1 78897 519 3

Interviews and Lectures

Energi Media
Markham interviews Dr. James Meadowcroft, research director of The Transition Accelerator, about his new study, Pathways to Net Zero: A Decision Support Tool.

Jean Monnet Network Carleton CANEUNET
“Where Next for Canada’s Low Carbon Transition?”

James Meadowcroft, Carleton University
On February 9th, 2018, the Centre for European Studies hosted a policy workshop, “Clean Energy & Climate Policy in Canada and the EU: an Exchange of Experiences, Views, and Visions for the Future,” at Carleton University.

Smart Prosperity Institute
James Meadowcroft speaks of the need to frame the discussion as a socio-technical transition towards a low carbon emission energy sector. He describes how our economic and political institutions are currently in a technological lock-in (path dependence) on current fossil fuel.

Selected Publications

  • Meadowcroft, J., Banister, D., & Holden, E., Langhelle, O., Linnerud, K., & Gilpin, G. (Eds.). (2019). What next for sustainable development? Our common future at thirty. Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Meadowcroft, J., & Steurer, R. (2018). Assessment practices in the policy and politics cycles: a contribution to reflexive governance for sustainable development? Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 20(6), 734-751.
  • Meadowcroft, J., Stephens, J. C., Wilson, E. J., & Rowlands, I. H. (2018). Social dimensions of smart grid: Regional analysis in Canada and the United States. Introduction to special issue of Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 82, 1909-1912.
  • Meadowcroft, J., & Fiorino, D. J. (Eds.). (2017). Conceptual innovation in environmental policy. MIT press.
  • Meadowcroft, J. (2016). Let’s Get This Transition Moving! Canadian Public Policy, 42(s1), 10-17.
  • Meadowcroft, J. (2013). Reaching the limits? Developed country engagement with sustainable development in a challenging conjuncture. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 31(6), 988-1002.
  • Meadowcroft, J. (2013). Exploring negative territory carbon dioxide removal and climate policy initiatives. Climatic Change, 118(1), 137-149.
  • Meadowcroft, J., Langhelle, O., & Rudd, A. (Eds.). (2012). Governance, Democracy and Sustainable Development: Moving Beyond the Impasse. Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Meadowcroft, J. (2012). Greening the State? In Steinberg P. & VanDeveer S. (Eds.), Comparative Environmental Politics: Theory, Practice, and Prospects (pp. 63-88). MIT Press.
  • Bäckstrand, K., Meadowcroft, J., & Oppenheimer, M. (2011). The politics and policy of carbon capture and storage: Framing an emergent technology. Global Environmental Change, 21(2), 275-281.
  • Meadowcroft, J. (2011). Engaging with the politics of sustainability transitions. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 1(1), 70-75.
  • Meadowcroft, J. (2009). What about the politics? Sustainable development, transition management, and long-term energy transitions. Policy Sciences, 4(42), 323-340.
  • Meadowcroft, J. R., & Langhelle, O. (Eds.). (2009). Caching the carbon: The politics and policy of carbon capture and storage. Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Meadowcroft, J. (2007). Who is in charge here? Governance for sustainable development in a complex world. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 9(3-4), 299-314.

The Rise of the Automobile: Lessons from historical Canadian Transportation Transitions

The Rise of the Automobile: This paper examines the experience of an earlier transition in land transport in the early twentieth century that saw the rapid adoption of the automobile, and asks what can we learn from this history to inform future sustainability transitions?

Pathways to net zero, A decision support tool

Pathways to Net Zero: This report is intended as a decision-support tool and reference document, providing an assessment of different pathways to net zero for eight critical sectors and systems in Canada.

Selected reviews of recent co-edited publications

  • Lennon, Breffní. “What next for Sustainable Development? Our Common Future at Thirty.” Eurasian Geography and Economics, vol. 61, no. 3, May 2020, pp. 338–340, doi:10.1080/15387216.2019.1689836.
  • Simonis, Udo E. “Caching the Carbon. The Politics and Policy of Carbon Capture and Storage.” Environmental Politics, vol. 20, no. 4, Routledge, 2011, pp. 602–04, doi:10.1080/09644016.2011.589591.
  • Paehlke, Robert. “Innovation, science, environment: charting sustainable development in Canada,
    1987–2007.” Environmental Politics, vol. 20, no. 1, 2011, pp. 146-148.

Features on University Website







Links to Media Interviews/Videos/Podcasts

Media Interviews



Links to Transition Accelerator and Efficiency Canada

Transition Accelerator
Profile for Research Directors – James Meadowcroft

Efficiency Canada
Efficiency Canada Governing Council (includes James’ Bio)