Carbon Counts -3rd February 2011

3 02 2011

The latest Carbon Salary Survey was launched today by Acre Resources and Acona with 994 professionals taking part. Now in its second year, the survey aims to plot the developing climate change and carbon job markets including; job functions, salaries and job satisfaction levels amongst other key indices.

The survey arguably defines carbon professionals as those working in:

• Renewable Energy and Clean Technology
• Carbon Finance/brokering
• Carbon/Climate Change Law, Policy or Regulation
• Climate Change Strategy
• Energy Management and Efficiency
• Carbon Management
• Sustainability

Key trends
According to the survey the most popular areas to work in globally are energy efficiency and consulting around CDM and JI projects (low carbon projects eligible for increased funding through carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol).

Energy efficiency professionals have taken the top slot for the second year running indicating how important demand side reduction is for organisations right now. And as energy prices escalate and environmental taxes begin to bite this job role has a good chance of proving recession proof

On the other hand CDM and JI project finance partly relies on confidence in the broader set of policy signals catalysed by the Kyoto protocol to remain in place and hopefully increase. New entrants into market based approaches to carbon reduction such as California suggest that more of these technical jobs could be required in the future to take these mechanisms to scale.

Energy generation through renewable technologies such as solar, wind and biomass come in next reflecting the excitement and continued growth expectations of the clean energy industry and in the UK particular the feedin tariff initiative seems to have really delivered in terms of jobs if nothing else.

Law/policy and regulation is also very popular and the most well paid of the roles identified acknowledging the complexity of the area and the need to not only understand and develop responses to forthcoming legislation but perhaps that policy and legal expertise can help stakeholders to engage meaningfully in policy development and create more workable frameworks going forward.

Salaries in the sector have risen year on year and 75% of the respondents reported they are satisfied with their jobs, bucking the wider trend of salary deflation in many countries and job insecurity. And we know that there is a strong correlation between satisfaction and productivity, so employers should be pleased.

Further reflections

What is also interesting is what the survey does not render visible. For example following the Copenhagen Accord’s pledge for Annex 1 countries to invest up to $100billion a year to 2020 on moving to a low carbon society, the International Energy Agency released figures suggesting $46 trillion would be needed to take us to 2050, 50% of which would come from adjustments to business as usual and 50% from new investments. It’s the business as usual that I am interested in here, in that as organisations start to treat some of these things as the norm those people who spend time working in climate change and carbon will start to become invisible, in fact they may not even know themselves that they are working in this space. A good example of this is Legal and General Group’s handling of the recent Carbon Reduction Commitment which has been allocated to the tax department rather than the energy manager to be treated like VAT with an aim to reduce it as much as possible. If you ask a Legal and General accountant what they did, do you think they would answer that they worked in carbon and climate change?

So whilst the survey shows an incremental trend in the right direction my suspicion is that it is also hiding a much more fundamental and transformational shift that’s occurring as carbon and climate is absorbed into BAU.

Additionally if we were to look at this from an energy security perspective and ignored carbon I wonder what would happen. My guess is not a lot because regardless of what happens in terms the climate change negotiations and public and leader sentiment around the broader topic, most of these jobs still make sense in a world of increasing demand and dwindling resources.

So does this mean that those climate jobs not focussed on energy that have a longer term eye on structural and cultural transformation are currently being ignored at the behest of the low hanging high energy fruit? And is the growth in technical jobs identified by this survey pointing towards the hockey stick trend required in the job market if we are to meet the challenges set by the IEA?

I guess we will have to wait for the 2011 survey to find out.



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