Profile: Pat Snowdon, FIEMA, Head of Economics and Woodland Carbon Code, Scottish Forestry

Published on: 26 Nov 2021

Pat snowdonWhy did you become an environment/sustainability professional?

I was fascinated by how business and the environment could be more aligned. It seemed such an obvious thing to do, with so many win-win reasons for why it would happen. It gives sustainability professionals great purpose to know they are doing their bit to transform people’s lives and the planet for the better.

What was your first job in this field?

I was a research assistant at the University of Aberdeen, working on an EU-funded project on rural tourism. We interviewed many businesses in the Scottish Highlands and on Exmoor, and the role of nature in underpinning their success was plain to see.

How did you get your first role?

It was advertised in the national press.

What does your current role involve?

I run a team of six that provides economic advice and evidence to the UK forestry sector. We also promote, manage and develop the Woodland Carbon Code, a UK-wide carbon standard for projects that involve planting new woodlands to generate carbon credits. The woodland carbon market has shown how new nature-based markets can be developed with positive impacts on the economic viability of the forest sector. We are involved in cutting edge work on natural capital and carbon markets, and it’s exciting to see the potential for forestry.

How has your role changed/progressed over the past few years?

The role has focused more on developing new markets in forestry. Carbon is the main example, but we are looking at biodiversity and water-related opportunities too.

However, markets aren’t the be-all and end-all for integrating nature into the economy. The job also involves looking at how nature can become essential to our wellbeing, whether through regulations, land-use subsidy reform or behavioural approaches to encouraging good environmental practice.

What’s the best part of your work?

The innovative work, the sense of shared purpose and the range of people I come into contact with.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Keeping on top of the myriad initiatives and the rapidly changing environment in which the team works.

What was the last development event you attended?

A closed meeting of IEMA members with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on a recent consultation on a mandatory approach to implementing the Task Force on Carbon-related Financial Disclosures.

What did you bring back to your job?

Some great insights into government’s current direction regarding carbon disclosure and reporting by businesses. This is an important driver for voluntary carbon markets and the future of the Woodland Carbon Code.

What is/are the most important skill(s) for your job?

Openness to doing things differently, patience and the ability to spot when a new initiative may bring real change.

Where do you see the profession going?

Environmental markets are going to be key to attract private finance into nature. As shown in the Dasgupta Review, nature is integral to the economy and needs to be properly accounted for.

Where would you like to be in five years’ time?

Witnessing a shift in attitude across the economy to prioritise the role of nature in our wellbeing.

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?

Be patient but trust that the win-win opportunities of nature will prevail.

How do you use the IEMA Skills Map?

It helps me sit back and examine my future skills and development needs.

If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Optimistic, persistent, fitness-loving.

What motivates you?

Making a contribution to how nature can be more integral to our wellbeing.

What would be your personal motto?

Trust your instincts.

Greatest risk you have ever taken?

Sky-diving from 15,000 feet! Workwise, ditching my early career in marketing, returning to university and seeking something environmental.

If you could go back in history, who would you like to meet?

Leonardo da Vinci for his ability to innovate and look across different disciplines.