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At least you don’t work in carbon trading

Bad smoke

It’s no longer possible to save the world whilst being paid in the style of a financial services professional.- Not unless you’re prepared to live with a degree of job insecurity that offsets the advantage of working in an office rather than camping in Finsbury Square.

Three years ago, carbon trading was a vibrant, growing and politically correct business to work in. Today, it’s moribund and politically expedient.

“Carbon trading was very exciting a few years’ ago,” says Mike Brennan chairman of recruitment group Climate Human Capital. “People were very well paid and very well bid, but not any more.”

Last year, Climate Human Capital estimated there were 169 people working in carbon trading in the City of London, 27% of the European total. Today, Brennan says that number is, “significantly lower.”

Carbon trading refugees are emerging from banks and funds.Bloomberg says an MD for environmental markets has left JPMorgan, “by mutual accord,” that UBS has fired a climate vice chairman and his co-workers, and that Commerzbank has reallocated the responsibilities of its alternative-energy analyst to its utilities analyst. Carbon funds like Climate Change Capital, which were the new, new thing, aren’t: CCC made a loss last year, has lost its chief executive, has no current vacancies and has declared an interest in “strategic partnerships” in an effort to raise more capital.

“People are leaving the industry because they’ve been fired or because they see no prospects,” said Emmanuel Fages, head of energy research for Europe at Societe Generale in Paris, told Bloomberg. “That is the sad story.”

The sources of the sadness are manifold: the price of carbon has plummeted to €7.9 a metric tonne, down from €17 euros in May; the much hoped for US cap and trade carbon scheme has failed to materialize, and the EU carbon trading scheme has been blighted by an oversupply of credits. One trader who’s been acting as an advisor on the carbon market says things are unlikely to improve soon. “Carbon is all about vanity. Corporates and governments want to be carbon neutral until they have to start laying people off or facing rioting in the streets. At that point, they don’t give a damn.”

What will happen to the carbon traders who thought they were using capitalism to save the world? “It’s a good job Starbucks are planning to hire so many people in London,” says one carbon headhunter, only semi-humorously.

However, Brennan insists there are some roles still somewhere. “We’re working with some niche brokerages focused on Central and Eastern Europe. They see opportunities there and are selectively adding carbon professionals to their team,” he promises. Unfortunately, applicants may exceed opportunities.

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