The Green Economy: key trends
In 2008, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched its Green Economy Initiative. At its basic, a green economy is one that is low-carbon, resource-efficient and socially inclusive, states the official UNEP report.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “green” technologies fulfill the following tasks:
- general environmental management (waste management, water, and air purification, land reclamation, etc.);
- production of energy from renewable sources (solar energy, biofuel, etc.);
- mitigation of climate change;
- the reduction of harmful emissions;
- the increase in fuel efficiency and power preservation in buildings and lighting.
Some of the global trends in the green economy are the preservation of energy and adoption of renewable energy sources. Just four years ago, investments into renewable energy amounted to $270.2 billion, which is six times more than a decade earlier. The biggest shares of investments come from China (31%), Europe (21%) and the USA (14%).
Green initiatives in the fields of power industry, public transit and infrastructure, eco-friendly construction and waste management have been introduced in nearly every member country of the European Union. The EU has established the new Euro-6 emissions standard for cars (Russia adopted the Euro-5 standard on July 1, 2016, but several companies have already begun producing Euro-6 fuel). The UK, for example, has taken up the green economy as its national development strategy and has previously unveiled its green projects which aim to create 100,000 new jobs.
Green economy education
A number of countries can boast significant experience in the implementation of educational programs focused on green economy and sustainable development. In Finland, the Natural Resources Institute (LUKE) has established the Boreal Green Bioeconomy program. Finland itself has remained a major player in the field of Bioeconomy thanks to its abundance of natural and human resources, experts say. Numerous conferences and educational events on the topic of bioeconomy are held across Europe; you can learn about some of them on the European Commission’s website.
“Today, one of the most crucial tasks for all countries is to solve the issues related to the rational use of fuel and energy, and the adoption of technologies that would facilitate preservation of fuel and resources. For this reason, it’s highly important that we design, introduce and use environmentally safe technologies in various industries (such as the production of inorganic materials, polymers, petrochemicals, medicine, food, and others), as well as develop methods of treatment for industrial and household waste and recyclables,” says Maria Fokina, deputy dean of ITMO University’s Faculty of Applied Optics.
Bioeconomics and Resource Management
In 2019, ITMO University is launching the new Master’s program ‘Bioeconomics and Resource Management’ with the aim of training qualified specialists in energy and resource preservation processes in industrial and petrol chemistry, and biotechnology with the use of green chemistry technologies.
“What made us decide to develop this program?” remarks Maya Uspenskaya, head of ITMO’s International Scientific and Research Institute of Bioengineering. “In the recent years, many international students coming here on internships want to learn about the new approaches to major environmental topics, namely waste management, bioplastics, household waste monitoring, and recycling, as well as sustainable development. They want to learn not only about what’s happening now and what we can fix today but also how to prevent humanity from making new mistakes.”
The educational program combines fundamental training in the fields of IT and modeling, ecology, physical and chemical analysis methods, waste recycling and salvaging, nanotechnologies and industrial chemistry. However, as its creators explain, its aim is to not only provide the students with professional technical skills but also educate them about project management. For that purpose, the program includes a large set of managerial and economic subjects, which will provide students with knowledge and skills from the fields of economics, logistics, resource management and more.
A modern specialist with a major in economics must be able to analyze the market environment, predict changes and make decisions to achieve the best results and make the most profit. The program’s managerial and economic subjects are designed to reflect the latest development trends in economics and management, as well as in the digital culture, and to help the graduates be well-received on the job market.
The Bioeconomics and Resource Management program is interdisciplinary and is staffed by members of various faculties. It was developed by specialists in bioengineering, economics, and management. Its students will design their own individual educational tracks both in terms of separate subjects and overall specializations, which gives them the opportunity to fulfill their educational needs and aspirations.
Most importantly, the program’s students will be able to receive two diplomas: one in bioengineering and one in economics.
“We’re providing our students with one of the kinds of double-degree programs: one where “specialized” education is combined with business education, helping them become professionals with an understanding of how to manage things and run their own business. In addition, programs such as this provide the perfect environment for creating consortiums in collaboration with prospective employers,” notes Anastasiia Malchukova, deputy head of ITMO’s Institute of Entrepreneurship.
The program is designed for students who are already familiar with the major topics, like chemistry, physics and materials science, and want to acquire more practical experience in resource management and working with alternative energy sources and waste recycling, as well as managing projects in the aforementioned fields. The program will also be of interest to students with Bachelor’s degrees in management or economics, who will be able to acquire technical knowledge necessary for effective project management.
Students of the program will do internships with companies such as Gazpromneft, Gazprom Transgaz Saint Petersburg, the North-Western Expertise Center, EuroChem, and the Vodokanal of St. Petersburg.
As Elizaveta Sheklanova, a tutor for the Faculty of Applied Optics, notes, each student will be able to do an internship at a specific company as well as focus on their research, all depending on their personal interests.
“We don’t limit our students and we’ll structure things depending on the way they prefer to work,” she says. “Right now, we can provide them with a great deal of research material, and we have the necessary resources for different types of research; students of our other programs are successfully participating in various competitions and conferences and writing articles. On the other hand, there are always those who are drawn to practical work. Their choice is also understandable, and we’d be ready to help them develop their skills further with our partners.”
Development and job prospects
Quality control and safety monitoring systems are used at practically every chemical and petrochemical facility or lab, as well as in the metallurgical, food and pharmaceutical industries, providing graduates with a wide range of employment prospects. Among their possible future places of work are health inspection laboratories, centers of expertise, and companies such as Gazpromneft, Lukoil, EuroChem, and others.
Graduates can also choose to go into business on their own.
“Successful graduates will be well-received by employers in many fields. Those are major energy and gas companies, organizations in the fuel and energy industry, and those involved in the development of alternative energy sources,” comments Maria Fokina, deputy dean of the Faculty of Applied Optics. “But we can’t forget that educational programs at ITMO University are designed to help graduates not only to work for major companies but also to create their own. For that, we have several support initiatives in place.”
In the future, the program’s students will also have the opportunity to travel abroad for short-term internships at universities. The staff of the Faculty already has the relevant experience and connections with the universities of Europe and the USA, such as the University of Montpellier (France), the University of New Mexico (the USA), the University of Debrecen (Hungary), the Wismar University of Applied Sciences (Germany) and others.
“When we were developing our program, we drew on the experience of leading international universities. It would be interesting to exchange our knowledge with our partners via student mobility programs and inviting foreign teaching staff,” says Prof. Fokina.