Current Shortage of GHG Professionals Likely to Get Worse

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The world faces a shortage of greenhouse gas (GHG) professionals with the skills needed to meet our current measurement, reporting and verification needs -- and the problem will likely get worse as climate change programs expand around the world.

That is the top-line finding from a new report on the GHG workforce from the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute (GHGMI), a nonprofit training center headquartered in Washington, D.C., and Sequence Staffing, an executive search and staffing firm.

"We would have very serious capacity issues if we should have any sort of scale-up," said Tim Stumhofer, a GHGMI program associate. "In our opinion, there has not been a systemic treatment of the capacity issues. I think this is a looming challenge."

For the second year in a row, the survey of GHG professionals found a gap between workforce supply and demand. This year's survey gauged the responses from more than 1,000 practitioners, revealing that many worry about the competency of their peers. Respondents said they also have a hard time demonstrating their own adequacy, in part due to a lack of widely accepted certification programs.

The survey produced some noteworthy findings, particularly with regards to the U.S. For example, GHG professionals generally give high marks to companies around the world for their relative preparedness for climate risk disclosure. However, 75 percent believe U.S. companies are unprepared to meet the GHG reporting requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Mandatory Reporting Rule, which began for most carbon-intensive facilities this year.

"We're at a point where there is a gap between how prepared you're going to be in a voluntary program, and the reporting realities under a compliance program," Stumhofer said.

Nearly 85 percent of respondents believe all public companies will someday need at least a part-time GHG employee or consultant. Already, those with adequate skills are finding themselves in high demand.

"We're at a crossroads, especially when you consider U.S. facilities," said Frank De Safey, vice president at Sequence Staffing. "The future at this point does not look good when you look at the reporting requirements and see we have a serious shortage of experienced personnel to carry out those out."

De Safey said one of his company's international clients has been directed by its CEO to reduce its global GHG emissions by 10 percent, in addition to goals for water and energy use. It is finding that the GHG technical personnel are the most difficult to retain.

"I am seeing this play out across the spectrum of public and private facilities and organizations here in the states, as well as internationally," De Safey said in an email. "The shortage of personnel and technical competency in what is now just an emerging field is dramatic."

Most employers and GHG professionals in the survey expressed a desire for a widely recognized certification or credentialing programs. "It’s another way to benchmark maturity," Stumhofer said, adding that GHGMI has a certification in the works. "On the other hand, it’s something that is crucial for the market to mature."

Other findings of the report include:

• More than half of respondents have worked in the field for less than five years, reflecting the nascent quality of the market. GHG professionals' view of the number of years it takes to be considered an expert averaged 6.9 years; self-identified experts had about 4.9 years experience.

• Most respondents believe GHG auditing has insufficient oversight and see the need for some type of certification for individual auditors before they can perform audits in the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation markets. At the same time, 41 percent of auditors described the work they had audited as being adequate or average, while 25.8 percent rated it as poor or very poor.

• Less than half of respondents have used GHG software; use correlated with self-identified experience level, so those with more expertise were more likely to have used the software. Of those who have used GHG software, 57.2 percent described it as adequate for their needs, while 35.4 percent said it was inadequate.

• More than 37 percent of respondents called for a sectoral approach to putting a price on carbon, compared to 23.7 percent who preferred a cap-and-trade mechanism and 20.1 percent who'd like a carbon tax.

• Most professionals in the survey expressed concerns over the public's limited understanding of climate change, particularly in the U.S. Those in Western Europe awarded higher marks to the public.

The 2010 Greenhouse Gas and Climate Change Workforce Needs Assessment Survey Report is available for free download at http://ghginstitute.org/research/survey/.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user karsten.planz.