Matthew Paterson


  • Professor of International Politics and Director of the SCI, Politics

Personal profile


My research and teaching focuses on environmental politics, especially climate change politics. I am interested in the fundamental question of the challenges that dramatic environmental change poses to existing political institutions and structures, and what drives the responses of those systems to the unsustainability of the current world order. I have worked mostly on this in relation to climate change, and have worked principally on global climate governance (the UNFCCC, transnational governance initiatives), the political economy of climate (role of specific business sectors, the politics of carbon markets, generally how global capitalism shapes responses to climate change), and the cultural politics of climate change (the practices of daily life and the identities associated with them - automobility in particular).


I have taught at the universities of Stirling, Keele and Ottawa prior to coming to Manchester in 2016. I did my PhD on climate change politics at Essex University in 1990-1994.


PhD in Government, Essex University, 1994

BA Combined Honours (History and Poltiics), University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1990.

Research interests

I have focused on the political economy of climate change for most of my career. This has involved looking at UN climate negotiations, the roles of specific industries (the fossil fuel industry and the insurance companies, notably), the emergence of carbon markets as a key response to climate change, and the development of climate governance initiatives by a range of actors beyond the interstate system. Currently I have a project entitled 'Cultural Politics of Climate Change', focused on the sorts of conflicts over the ways that attempts to move towards the decarbonisation of the global economy challenge deeply embedded daily practices and the norms and affective desires associated with them. I have also recently developed an interest in Social Network Analysis and my next project will be focused on using this to analyse the dynamics of global climate governance. I am interested in supervising students in any of these areas.

Prizes and awards

My book Automobile Politics: Ecology and Cultural Political Economy (Cambridge 2007) won the British International Studies Association's IPE Group Prize for the best book in International Political Economy in 2008.

I have been runner-up for the International Studies Association's Sprout prize for the best book in international environmental politics three times, for Automobile Politics, for Climate Capitalism (CUP, 2010, with Peter Newell), and for Transnational Climate Change Governance (CUP 2014, with Harriet Bulkeley and 8 others).

Activities and esteem

In 2010 I was selected as a Lead Author for the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the chapter on 'International Cooperation: agreements and instruments' in the Fifth Assessment Report of the Panel, published in 2014.

Selected invited lectures and seminars

‘‘Networks and Coordination in Global Climate Governance’, Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements, July 2016.

‘La sociologie du Groupe d’experts intergouvernemental sur l’évolution du climat (GIEC) – une analyse des réseaux sociaux’, Sciences Po Paris, January 29 2015

‘Linkages in a global climate governance complex’, with Michele Betsill, presented to workshop on ‘Building the Hinge: Reinforcing National and Global Climate Governance Mechanisms’, Neemrana Fort-Palace, Alwar, India, December 5-7, 2013.

‘Neoliberal origins, decarbonising futures? The complex political economy of global climate governance’, University of Hamburg, May 31 2010.

‘Moving the Earth: Car Culture and Global Environmental Politics’, Cecil And Ida Green Lecture, Vancouver Institute, Vancouver, April 14 2007.

Visiting professor positions at: Carleton University, Ottawa (2001, 2004). University of British Columbia, Vancouver (2007). Lancaster University (2015).

Member of the Political Science evaluation committee for the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Insight Grants, 2018-19.


Methodological knowledge

Social Network Analysis; Critical Discourse Analysis.


I teach mostly courses on environmental politics (especially climate change), political economy, and global governance. I have also taught at various times in my career general courses in International Relations, Introduction to Political Science, research design courses, and a course on Social Network Analysis in politics.

Supervision information

I have supervised 17 PhD students to completion. A good number of these have gone on to academic careers in places as far afield as Australia and Sénégal, including two who are themselves now (Full) Professors. Others work the Canadian federal government, and one is a novelist.

I have also supervised 6 postdoctoral fellows. Four of these are now established academics, in Egypt, the US, and Canada. One works for a research NGO and the other is in the Canadian federal govenment.

I currently have 5 PhD students still at the University of Ottawa, and co-supervise one in Manchester.

I am particularly keen to supervise students working on various aspects of climate change politics.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

External positions

External examiner, undergraduate International Relations modules, Lancaster University

1 Jan 20181 Jan 2021

Adjunct Professor of Political Science, University Of Ottawa

1 Jul 201630 Jun 2019

Areas of expertise

  • JA Political science (General)
  • environmental politics
  • JZ International relations

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Sustainable Futures
  • Sustainable Consumption Institute
  • Manchester Environmental Research Institute


  • climate change politics
  • environmental political economy
  • cultural political economy
  • social network analysis


Dive into the research topics where Matthew Paterson is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 1 Similar Profiles

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or