By Stevie Leeks
With a global pandemic in full swing, climate change is no longer the main emergency hitting the news.
As countries all over world have introduced social distancing and isolation restrictions to limit the spread of the virus, carbon emissions have dropped as non-essential sectors have ceased their usual activities and travel has reduced as people stay at home. One estimate indicates that greenhouse gas emissions in Europe will drop by a staggering 24.4% this year, which equates to 388.8 million tons less carbon.
We have seen a global drop in carbon emissions before following the most recent major financial crisis, however we must not forget that this was quickly followed by a 6% increase in global emissions in 2010.
The plummeting emission levels we are currently seeing are on a much greater scale than seen previously, as country after country introduces lockdown measures. However, looking forward this could easily be followed by a dramatic bounce back of emissions as economies recover.
Graduates entering the renewable energy sector this year will be entering at an exciting and crucial time. Renewable energy technologies have the potential to make sure that carbon emissions do not rise back to, or worse exceed, pre Covid-19 levels. We are optimistic that graduates working across the sector will be able to bring fresh ideas from university to help fuel a change to our energy system at this critical time. This will also require policies that support the sector through development of new technologies and the introduction or continuation of policies to support new projects.
The sector itself also needs to play its part. We must attract talented graduates towards a career in renewables, by making sure we’re offering the right opportunities to students and new graduates.
We are excited to be announcing the first winner of our Innovation Fund later this year, which has been open to students researching renewable energy technologies as part of their undergraduate or postgraduate studies. The winner and runner up prizes will be awarded at an industry event later this year, or virtually if we’re still in lockdown.
We have also decided to repeat the student Innovation Fund for the next academic year, with applications opening in the autumn to encourage current students to focus their dissertation research and consider a career in the sector.