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Three developments set to unlock career opportunities

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ESOS compliance, sustainable infrastructure and the emerging natural capital market are major career opportunities.

Three key developments over the last quarter are likely to have big implications for professional job opportunities in the environmental sector, though over very different time scales.

The most immediate of these is a likely boost in demand for lead energy assessors and associated skills due to a looming failure by thousands of companies to comply in time with the 5 December first audit deadline under the Energy Saving Opportunities Scheme (endsreport.com/50129).

The Environment Agency has confirmed it will not be likely to take enforcement action at least until the end of January, and work in many of these firms is likely to stretch well into 2016. As a result, a drop in demand for assessors after 5 December is likely to be far less drastic than many had feared, and could even go into reverse for a time.

Another, much bigger longer term opportunity lies in infrastructure, both internationally and in the UK, where a National Infrastructure Commission was launched in September, chaired by Lord Adonis (endsreport.com/50059). It will advise not only on transport projects such as high-speed rail, but also on energy projects such as large-scale power storage, demand management and interconnection, and brownfield site development.

And just over the horizon, a €90 trillion global business opportunity will emerge over the next 15 years in infrastructure development driven by the need both to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to climate change impacts that cannot be avoided (endsreport.com/50109). Addressing the IMF and World Bank in Lima ahead of the UN Paris climate summit in December, co-chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Lord Stern, revealed that multilateral development banks alone will need to urgently increase lending five-fold to more than $200bn.

There are huge infrastructure-related job opportunities in engineering and a wide range of sustainable development skills as the power sector moves, albeit falteringly, towards green energy in the UK and globally, and as cities look towards more sustainable transport and energy solutions. Environmental professionals in the UK could also benefit from a boost to brownfield development.

The need for more robust transport networks in the face of climate change will also generate civil engineering opportunities in the UK and internationally, with UK construction firms already well-placed to take advantage.

Still on greenhouse gas mitigation, more opportunities will come directly through growing expertise needed in carbon pricing by companies. A report by the Carbon Disclosure Project in September found that more than 1,000 companies are planning or already operate internal carbon pricing (endsreport.com/49817). These schemes are intended to help business planning, to redirect investment into low carbon generation and are ultimately set to benefit from wider carbon market developments likely after a global deal in Paris.

Among the many skills that could benefit here are environmental economics, carbon reporting, accounting and data verification, mitigation offset project development and carbon trading. Risk assessment of investment portfolios likely to be exposed to carbon tax liabilities and growing competition from renewables in future is another obvious candidate for growth.

Indirectly, these developments will also affect supply chains and procurement practices, boosting demand for wider corporate social responsibility skills.

Further down the track, the work of the Natural Capital Committee headed up by environmental economist Professor Dieter Helm looks set to reap dividends after DEFRA threw its weight behind a 25 year plan for restoring the UK’s natural assets to health (endsreport.com/49818).

As with carbon pricing, this should lead to better decisions, notably on risk management, supply chain sourcing, investments and sustainable revenues as well as environmental performance as business looks to develop a more consistent accounting framework. For example, luxury goods firm Kering reports it has already invested a “significant amount of effort convening experts, refining and field-testing our natural capital accounting methodology and implementing and scaling it across our brands” (endsreport.com/49500). CSR skills again look likely to benefit.

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