A strong climate treaty will create major opportunities for environmental professionals in the UK and globally
The energy, climate and wider environmental and sustainability jobs markets all stand to benefit hugely if parties to the UN convention on climate change meeting in Paris can agree on a strong climate treaty for 2020.
The crucial UN summit, which concludes on 11 December, is intended to agree greenhouse gas mitigation actions to keep global warming below 2°C, and to ensure there is adequate planning and finance for adaptation to those effects of climate change that are already inevitable.
Both of these aims will feed into national policy and legislation, with opportunities for consultants and environmental lawyers charged with coming up with new policy mechanisms. Many of these opportunities will emerge quickly given the need for urgent action.
The new global climate framework in turn should release a second, tidal wave of investment in low carbon energy internationally that has until now grown modestly due to lack of policy clarity. This will bring major export opportunities and jobs for forward-thinking UK low carbon energy technology kit and consultancy providers.
At the UK level, there could be major benefits too as the country seeks to overhaul and decarbonise its ageing electricity grid. This process has already been well under way in the UK, but has slowed following a rollback in renewable energy support.
With a level playing field internationally, objections to a faster pace of decarbonisation will be harder to sustain, and the UK’s renewable energy sector could resume its former rapid progress. Civil, mechanical and electrical engineers, energy traders and technologists would stand to benefit in renewable energy, but also in nuclear power, new smart energy kit, networks and services. Energy efficiency too would receive a badly needed boost - benefiting installers of insulation, micro-generation, local energy storage, and more efficient product design.
A growing carbon market following Paris agreement could re-energise the EU emissions trading scheme and boost export opportunities for consultants, carbon traders and developers of new emissions mitigation projects and offset schemes in developing countries.
On the adaptation side, insurers will be looking to recruit and train more specialists on climate risk management. Regulators, civil engineers dealing with critical power networks and other infrastructure, planners, developers and architects will all need to strengthen their focus on resilience. Environmental lawyers could be more in evidence as liability for environmental damage to businesses from inadequate adaptation measures is taken increasingly seriously by firms, investors and regulators.
An adaptation market in both the UK and internationally could be expected to boost opportunities for export of kit, consultancy and associated legal services. Changes in agriculture to lower emissions and adapt to more extreme climate will also boost these markets, with action extending to water management in increasingly drought-prone zones.
More widely, there will be major opportunities in carbon monitoring, reporting and verification at international and national level, particularly in the carbon market.
But a third wave of opportunities will also emerge as divestment in fossil fuels accelerates, benefiting specialists in sustainability, green finance, consultants, insurers and lawyers. The most forward-thinking consultancies and fund managers are already building up their environmental expertise to grab a large share of the new markets.