What can I do to help tackle climate change? This critical question is today posed with increasing frequency by young people across the world, who are leading the drive to protect our planet.
For Bob Zhang, University of Reading BSc Environmental Science graduate, this question is where his journey started, fuelled by a desire to take action against the causes of global warming. A desire to learn the facts, and the solutions available to address climate issues. A desire to protect nature. A desire to work with a like-minded community of staff and students – where our environment is an everyday discussion.
Environmental science at Reading
Bob visited the Department of Geography and Environmental Science at an Open Day, where he was impressed by both the campus and the course structure.
“The welcoming atmosphere and beautiful campus instantly attracted me – as did the fact Reading is only a 30 minute train journey from London.
"The flexible module design was also perfect for me, as the course provided a fundamental insight into environmental science, while also allowing me to tailor my learning experiences by choosing different optional modules. You can even pick modules from outside the Department.”
This equipped Bob with the confidence to choose Reading, and he relished the sense of community gained from being a campus university.
Getting the most out of his university experience
Reflecting on his studies at Reading, Bob enjoyed many highlights – both inside and outside the classroom – which helped to provide him with a well-rounded experience.
“One highlight from the course was learning about mineralogy, as I’ve always been fascinated by different types of rocks. This was taught by Dr Hazel McGoff, who was super kind and extremely knowledgeable in the field. She also wrote my reference letter, which got me a place at Imperial College for a master’s.
“The Quaternary Global Climate Change module was also very interesting. I saw a range of intriguing items such as a mammoth tooth, tree rings and ice core records, which can track our historical climate.”
Students learn through a variety of techniques, including field classes, which are critical in putting theory into practice and providing valuable research and practical experience.
“We had the chance to go to Cheddar Gorge, Almeria and Iceland. It was great to have some practical field work knowledge. Seeing things with our own eyes provided a shocking awakening, and shows how much needs to be done in industry within a short timeframe.
“My learning experience was very pleasant, with there being a friendly and welcoming atmosphere within the Department.
"In Reading, I built some lifelong friendships who I’m still in close contact with today, such as my dissertation supervisor Dr Tom Sizmur, who was knowledgeable, helpful and patient throughout the project.”
Turning knowledge into action
Since graduating from Reading, Bob has obtained an MSc in Climate Change, Management and Finance from Imperial College London. Bob has also worked as an Environmental Impact Analyst and Green Finance Consultant in China. Here he contributed to the Green Bond Endorsed Project Catalogue, which involved conducting field work alongside lab analysis.
His involvement in modelling and reporting projects helped China secure its first ever funding from the Green Climate Fund.
Today Bob works as a Sustainable Debt Data Analyst, at the Climate Bonds Initiative in London.
“In my current role I primarily conduct research regarding Green Bond’s environmental performance by checking use of proceeds in their prospectus and framework from a technical perspective such as; energy efficiency improvement, emission threshold and energy density.
"I also compose Green Bond’s state of the market annual report which helps investors tracking green bond development.
“Modules such as Introduction to Environmental Science, Climatology, Air Pollution and Geomorphology equipped me with the technical understanding of climate change and its secondary implications.
"In my time as an Environmental Impact Analyst I conducted field work sample collection and lab analysis, which I had practiced plenty of times at Reading.”
Improving green finance
Bob has identified the green finance sector as a place he can use his knowledge and expertise to continue making a difference.
“Coming from a scientific background, I see a huge communication gap between technical and financial people.
"Right now, we have the resources to tackle climate change. But we need to leverage more private capital into climate change projects in order to speed up the energy transition. I hope to continue working in this area.”
By working on climate projects in different countries, Bob has seen first-hand how integral climate roles will be in the international workplace moving forward.
“The world is gradually recognising the impacts of climate change. Right now, governments are making commitments, such as the EU Green Deal, China announcing their target of being net-zero by 2060, and the US re-joining the Paris Agreement.
"Financial institutions are increasingly incorporating governance and climate sensitivity analysis into their investment decisions, and setting their own sustainable strategies. Climate-related jobs definitely have a bright outlook with huge potential.”
“My future career goal is to be in a place where I can deliver the most positive impact by helping the world embark on long-term sustainable development using finance as a tool.”