Carbon accounting and carbon foot printing has become big business over the past decade. The implementation of Kyoto protocol in 2005 prompted most countries to reduce their emissions. Carbon reduction targets were assigned to countries and more stringent targets imposed for the developed world. Most OECD countries rolled out policies and laws for reducing emissions. Businesses and even public services were asked to participate in meeting national targets. This was in addition to carbon reductions policies developed for the domestic sector. Grant/rebate was given to ordinary members of public who wanted to purchase renewable energy device such as a wind turbine. Utility companies were encouraged to look into more novel solutions like carbon sequestration.
How wide spread is carbon accounting?
Most of these policies have since borne fruit. In the UK for instance, there have been over 1 GW of solar panel installations, every year for the past 5 years (2011-2016). Coal, that used to be the staple fuel for electricity generation in the UK was eclipsed by solar PV generation in May 2016. The point to be noted here is that carbon reduction polices have impacted individuals as well as businesses. Industrial and commercial concerns are continuously looking for ways to cut down emissions to avoid taxes and up their green credentials. Airlines Industry for example have looked into developing more and more fuel efficient planes While the airline operators now allow their customers to invest in a fund, money from which will go on to off-set their travel emissions. Energy conservation methods have been explored even in hospitals and schools. To gauge the efficacy of carbon reduction methods, measurement of emissions is the foremost requirement. Thus requirement of carbon accountants is global and it growing.
Just typing the words “Carbon consultant” on a job site reveals the number of employment opportunities available. Interestingly many of them pay better wages than jobs for fresh engineering graduate (starting salary over 24,000 GBP).
How can I become a carbon accountant?
To become a carbon accountant/ consultant, a background knowledge of energy engineering is helpful but not necessary. However, calculation and analytical skills are a pre-requite. The understanding of the nature of emissions and its relationship with energy usage is fundamental to carbon accountancy. There is also the requirement of being able to determine the scope of emissions. In other words, a carbon consultant should be able to work out by definition, which carbon emissions can be accounted and which can be discounted. For example, if the emissions are to be reviewed for a supermarket and the supermarket is located “out of town”, than the emissions by customers for getting to the supermarket will not be included. These emissions although are because of supermarkets locality but are out with supermarkets control.
Normally energy consultants have ventured in to this discipline and a number of companies are cashing on the drive to be carbon conscientious.
There are courses available for carbon accounting as well as software. Some of these courses are run by university while other are driven by private institutions. There is no undergraduate courses that solely focuses on carbon consulting alone. For example the University of Leicester run a unit on carbon accounting as part of their sustainability program.
The following is expected of a carbon consultant:
- Measuring carbon emissions for a particular site
- Understanding of emission trading
- Develop tools that will allow customers to measure carbon footprint for using specific product
- Leverage government schemes for avoiding carbon taxation.
Emission trading is a multi-billion pound industry. Recent figures for size of cap and trade market are not precisely known but in 2010 the size was 74 billion USD. Although Cap and trade policies are inherently flawed (as succinctly explained by Annie Leonard) but they are here to stay. However their flaws can be rectified with fair carbon accountancy and carbon responsibility.
Requirement for Carbon accountant, is now more than ever. Therefore, it is a good idea for students that have a keen interest in renewable energy to enrol for a carbon accounting course to diversify their portfolio.
Also worth reading
Renewable Energy: Jobs, Skills and Education
Renewable Energy Education in the UK
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