Contact Professor Paul Leinster

Areas of expertise


Paul has a first degree in chemistry and a PhD in environmental engineering, both from Imperial College and an MBA from the Cranfield School of Management. He was awarded a CBE in 2008 and is a chartered chemist and a chartered environmentalist. He was awarded honorary doctorates of science by Cranfield University and the University of the West of England and honorary fellowships by the Chartered Institute of Waste Management and by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management.   

Prior to joining Cranfield Paul was Chief Executive of the Environment Agency from 2008 to 2015. He joined the EA in 1998 as Director of Environmental Protection and was appointed Director of Operations in 2004.  

As soon as he joined the EA Paul developed and promoted the concept of better environmental regulation. The outputs from this have been recognised within government and internationally as leading edge. He provided the strategic direction to the Environment Agency's response to major incidents such as floods and drought. Paul had leading roles in the European and worldwide networks of environmental regulators. At the request of Defra Paul chaired the National Drought Group in 2012.  He has been a member of a number of Minister chaired committees and cross government department advisory groups including those on food and farming, agricultural regulation, waste strategy, hazardous waste, spatial planning and carbon capture and storage.

Prior to joining the EA in 1998 Paul worked in the private sector for over 20 years.  This included working for BP, SmithKline Beecham, Schering Agrochemicals and as the managing director of a consultancy specialising in environmental, health and safety issues.

Current activities

Paul joined Cranfield University in 2015 as Professor of Environmental Assessment.  

He is a member of the government’s Natural Capital Committee, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’s Advisory Committee and the Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science Strategic Advisory Board. He chairs the Bedfordshire Local Nature Partnership and is a board member of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment. He is a non-executive director of Flood Re and a Patron of the UK Environmental Law Association.

Paul's research and strategic consultancy interests include the monitoring, assessment and control of emissions and discharges to the environment and their impacts on people and wildlife. He is also involved in the development, implementation and review of regulatory and other approaches to achieve the required policy outcomes whilst minimising administrative costs and in assessing and developing appropriate governance arrangements. Other study areas include resource use management, natural capital approaches and responses to major incidents. He has a particular interest in translating research findings into practical operational measures.


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