Pioneers into Practice: Alaa Khourdajie
Alaa was in the very first cohort of Pioneers, and signed up for the scheme shortly after completing his Masters in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics at the University of Birmingham.
He was still figuring out how he was going to progress when the opportunity came along.
Alaa’s first placement was with Birmingham City Council’s Sustainability and Economic Development team. During his four weeks there, he was working on an ‘employment multiplier effect’ tool. This sought to estimate the number of jobs that are created or safeguarded when investment is made into the low carbon economy – notably into energy efficiency and renewable energy, which were strategic priorities for the Council. “I created a small toolkit to try and replicate some work from the Energy Saving Trust, and through this I was trying to understand the details so that I could explain to the team what this is toolkit about, the pros, the cons, etc.,” he explains.
He was initially concerned that the four weeks would not be long enough – “in economics, things take time,” he says. There were also some hurdles to overcome with regards to data collection: at the council, much of the data he needed had yet to be collected, and he spent a lot of time trying to rectify that by calling installers and suppliers – a tricky task when the data is commercially sensitive. Nonetheless, by the end of the placement, he had created a basic toolkit with recommendations on how the team could use and improve it.
Interestingly, Alaa was asked to do exactly the same piece of work on his international placement, with the Valencia Institute of Building. Having gained more experience by this point, he was much happier with the outcome. Importantly, the data was there ready for him, as Valencia has an annual survey on the jobs required to complete retrofitting and renewables jobs. As such, the toolkit was more comprehensive, and he was able to plan out and stick to a rigorous work plan in order to complete it on time. “I’m not sure if they’re using the toolkit now,” he muses. “It would be great to be able to do some follow-up work”.
Reflecting on his work with both organisations following Pioneers into Practice, Alaa recognises how fundamental it is to be able to identify all direct and indirect benefits of investments in the low carbon economy. “If it is for the emissions reduction only, some may suggest that buying and confiscating emissions allowances may have a more measured effect. However, economists argue that investments in the transition towards the low carbon economy, be it investments in skills or technologies, have more far reaching benefits than just emissions reduction, such as creating jobs and ensuring future energy security,” he muses.
Nearly four years on from his time as a Pioneer, Alaa is working towards a PhD in Economics at Bath University, examining how to reach stronger global climate agreements by linking them to trade agreements. This has given him the opportunity to work with some of the world’s most respected experts in the field – notably his supervisor, who advises the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
He also runs his own consultancy – Climenomics – as well as working with a London-based environmental economics consultancy, eftec. “This comes from my experience in the private sector including Climate-KIC and the PhD. I worked with a couple of consultancies on renewable energy policies in the UK, so I’m trying to stay in touch with that.” Ultimately, Alaa feels that his experiences with Climate-KIC very much shaped his progress in the private sector, alongside his research – putting expertise into practice.