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Centre of Development Studies



Jon Phillips is a University Lecturer in the Centre of Development Studies. He is broadly interested in relationships between environment and society, which he studies through empirical research on the production and governance of resources and energy in the South. His research aims to demonstrate the contingency of inequitable systems of energy and resource governance, which are at least partially open to change through alternative systems of technology, knowledge and power. He has explored these themes through studies of the offshore oil industry in Ghana, urban energy politics in South Africa, and carbon finance and energy governance in India and Kenya.

Prior to Cambridge, Jon was a Research Fellow in Geography at the University of Exeter, following doctoral studies in Geography at King’s College London. He has also held research posts at the University of East Anglia and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex. His work appears in journals including Global Environmental ChangeAfrican Affairs, GeoforumReview of African Political Economy, and Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space.


I am interested in relationships between environment, society and space. I engage in empirical research in sub-Saharan Africa to understand energy and resources as social and material relations. The first strand of my research has been on the spatial production of fossil fuel economies. I have used territory and materiality to explore why and how resources may become contested at extractive frontiers. These include struggles over resource sovereignty, livelihood impacts, and development finance and partnerships. The second strand of my research has been the political economy of renewable energy in the South. This has included analysis of how global climate finance schemes are governed, how renewable energy technologies gain traction (or don’t), and how energy inequalities are produced. My research has been funded by the Economic & Social Research Council, the Newton Fund, and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.


Key publications: 


Phillips J and Petrova S. 2021. The materiality of precarity: Gender, race and energy infrastructure in urban South Africa. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space doi: 10.1177/0308518X20986807

Caprotti F, Essex S, Phillips J, de Groot J and Baker L. 2020. Scales of governance: Translating multiscalar transitional pathways in South Africa’s energy landscape. Energy Research & Social Science 70, doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2020.101700

Phillips J. 2019. Who’s in charge of Sino-African resource politics? Situating African state agency in Ghana. African Affairs 118(470): 101–124

Baker L and Phillips J. 2019. Tensions in the transition: The politics of electricity distribution in South Africa. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space 37(1): 177–196

Newell P & Phillips J. 2016. Neoliberal energy transitions in the South: Kenyan experiences. Geoforum 74: 39-48

Phillips J, Hailwood E & Brooks A. 2016. Sovereignty, the ‘resource curse’ and the limits of good governance: a political economy of oil in Ghana. Review of African Political Economy 43(147): 26-42

Næss LO, Newell P, Newsham A, Phillips J, Quan J & Tanner T. 2015. Climate policy meets national development contexts: Insights from Kenya and Mozambique. Global Environmental Change 35: 534-544

Baker L, Newell P & Phillips J. 2014. The political economy of clean energy transitions: the case of South Africa. New Political Economy 19(6): 791-818

Phillips J, Das K & Newell P. 2013. Governance and technology transfer in the Clean Development Mechanism in India. Global Environmental Change 23(6): 1594-1604

Phillips J & Newell P. 2013. The governance of clean energy in India: the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and domestic energy politics. Energy Policy 59(8): 654-662

Newell P, Phillips J & Purohit P. 2011. The political economy of clean development in India: the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and beyond. IDS Bulletin 42(3): 89-96



Caprotti F, Phillips J, Petrova S, Bouzarovski S, Essex S, de Groot J, Baker L, Reddy Y and Wolpe P (2021) ‘Candles are not bright enough’: Inclusive urban energy transformations in spaces of urban inequality? In: M Keith and A De Souza Santos (eds) African Cities and Collaborative Futures: Urban Platforms and Metropolitan Logistics. Manchester, Manchester University Press.

Phillips J. 2018. Order and the offshore: The territories of deep-water oil production. In: K Peters, P Steinberg & E Stratford (eds) Territory Beyond Terra. London, Rowman & Littlefield International. pp 51-67

Phillips J, Newell P & Pueyo A. 2017. Triple wins? Prospects for pro-poor, low carbon, climate resilient energy in Kenya. In: F Nunan (ed) Making Climate Compatible Development Happen. Abingdon, Routledge. pp 114-129

Martin A, Akol A & Phillips J. 2013. Just conservation? On the fairness of sharing benefits. In: T Sikor (ed) The Justices and Injustices of Ecosystems Services. London, Routledge. pp 69-91



Cowley R & Phillips J. 2018. What Can Urban Sustainability Experiments Do? Exeter: University of Exeter

Newell P, Phillips J & Pueyo A, with Kirumba E, Ozor N & Urama K. 2014. The political economy of low carbon energy in Kenya. IDS Working Paper 445. Brighton, Institute of Development Studies (IDS)

Newell P, Phillips J & Pueyo A. 2014. The political economy of low carbon energy in Kenya. STEPS Centre Low Carbon Development Briefing. Brighton, STEPS Centre, University of Sussex

Newell P, Phillips J & Mulvaney D. 2011. Pursuing clean energy equitably. Human Development Research Paper 2011/3. New York, UNDP Human Development Research Office

Newell P & Phillips J. 2011. Governing clean development: what have we learnt? Governance of Clean Development Policy Briefing 03. Norwich, University of East Anglia

Teaching and Supervisions


Jon is Director of the MPhil in Development Studies 2020-21. He coordinates Paper 43, Politcal Economy of Development in Africa with Dr Helena Pèrez Niño and contributes to other papers on the MPhil in Development Studies.

University Lecturer in Development Studies
MSci (Bristol), MA, PhD (King’s College London)
MPhil Course Director 2020-21
Currently not taking PhD Students and not available for MPhil dissertation supervision
Dr. Jon  Phillips