Emerging Career Opportunities: Carbon Markets

carbon%20offset%20center.jpgWhile pundits on this blog and elsewhere question the value of the cap-and-trade system, the efficacy of structures set up to reduce emissions in developing countries, and even the morality of carbon offsets, no doubt many of you in the readership recognize something going on beneath the surface of these debates: The emergence of a batch of new jobs.
The World Bank sized the 2007 carbon markets at $64 billion, and from 2006 to 2007, the voluntary carbon markets nearly tripled in size, according to a report by New Carbon Finance and Ecosystem Marketplace. A May study released by Point Carbon estimated that the carbon market could be worth more than $3 trillion by 2020.

One driver for the growth of the markets in the United States are regional initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases. The Western Climate Initiative, a coalition of seven Western states and three Canadian provinces, set a deadline of August 2008 to develop a market-based mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative effort by nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, has a cap-and-trade system due to go into effect in 2009.
“It’s certainly getting much bigger,” says Kyle Tanger, a principal at Clear Carbon Consulting in Arlington, Virginia, which offers carbon, energy, and information management services. The firm has grown 300 percent since Tanger acquired it in March 2007, and he expects to double in size over the next year. “Whatever estimates you see documented are almost certain to be underestimates. A lot of carbon deals are happening without going through an exchange of any sort.”
Opportunities for those who want to break into the carbon markets are diverse, represented by a wide range of consulting and service firms. Those with MBAs and degrees in engineering policy, information technology, economics, mathematics, computer science, and even the liberal arts can find a home in this sector, though you’ll need to show a commitment to the area through volunteer, internship, or other work experience. You might also look into courses at the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute, a nonprofit that offers training and education around the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
Responsibilities vary depending on the type of role you’re in. Project developers research potential projects – such as identifying a dairy farm where a digester can turn manure into methane – and then go into the field to see if they’ll really work. Financiers analyze the investments and structure financing for the deals. Brokers trade the credits. Monitor firms make sure things get done the way they’re supposed to, and third-party verification firms are needed to verify results. Consultants offer advisory services and research to prospective clients.
Conversations with leaders at a variety of firms over the past month confirm that firms are hiring, but also that they are receiving a high volume of resumes and tend to be highly selective in whom they bring on. “I have very particular needs,” says Josh Margolis, Co-CEO at CantorCO2e, which provides financial services to energy and environmental commodity markets. “I will consider candidates who are both driven to make a difference and have the skills required to match the needs of the buyer with the solutions offered by a seller. I need brokers who have both a passion to do good and the skills needed to put deals together that will, in their own small way, change the world. If I don’t find both of these attributes in a candidate then, I’m not going to hire.”
Firms realize that they are unlikely to find candidates with decades of experience, however. “You don’t have to come in pretending that you know everything,” says Steve McDougal, executive vice president at 3Degrees, which works with businesses and individuals to fund clean energy and carbon reduction projects. McDougal advises those interested in working the carbon markets to take something that may not be exactly what you’re looking for: “If you can learn the market, there’s so much opportunity.”

Frank Marquardt is the author of The Solar Job Guide and Green Careers, and a contributor to How Green Is Your City? He has contributed to 100s of career guides over the past 10 years. Frank is also director of content strategy at Native Instinct, an interactive agency.

Leave a Reply