MSc Climate Change Finance & Investment: 10 years of developing skills to support the low-carbon, climate-resilient transition

Original illustration by Adelaide Grosse, ECA student

In this post, Ian Cochran shares insights into the development of the MSc Climate Change Finance & Investment (formerly the MSc in Carbon Finance) Programme, one of the world’s oldest Master’s programme on low carbon financial management. Dr Cochran is a Lecturer and Course Organiser for three courses in the MSc in Climate Change Finance & Investment. This post is part of our November and December Hot Topic theme: COP26 and embedding the climate emergency in our teaching.

We are now over one year into the ‘critical decade’ for countries to meet our long-term climate goals. On one hand, major investments are required in low-carbon technologies, infrastructure, and adaptation over the next 30 years. On the other hand, we are seeing a rapid expansion of green and sustainable finance and investment from public and private sources worldwide. And with COP26 in Glasgow concluding this month, it is also an exciting – and important moment – in the field of climate finance and investment.

Many critical questions remain about how to channel this boom to support climate goals, as well as manage the risks related to climate change and the transition itself. Furthermore, the ongoing economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is raising new hurdles for both the climate community and the broader economy. Will the impact of the response and resulting stimulus and recovery packages be ‘green’? Or will decisions focus on the short-term lead to the locking-in of further emissions and vulnerabilities?

Created in 2011, the MSc Climate Change Finance & Investment (formerly the MSc in Carbon Finance) is one of the oldest masters-level programmes in the world dedicated to training the change makers of tomorrow in the field of low carbon finance and investment. With 2021 marking the start of its 11th cohort, more than 250 students have graduated, going on to work across the world for private companies, public sector, and NGOs in carbon trading, consultancy, and management. The 2021-2022 cohort will also be the first graduating with the renamed MSc. This change in name reflects the growing importance of finance and investment or climate action, and comes as programme numbers continue to rise.

The programme’s past and future is aligned with these trends as our curriculum combines cutting-edge practices and approaches of today built on the foundations established by carbon finance over the last two decades. We believe that a major constraint to achieving the level of investment required is a shortage of professionals with the skills and knowledge in carbon investment and finance, carbon accounting, and climate policy. Providing these skills is the reason the MSc in Climate Change Finance & Investment was created.

Over 12 months, our programme’s aim is to help students develop the advanced knowledge and skills to be part of the low-carbon, resilient transition’ under way in both developing and developed countries. It focuses on developing the skills and capacity of our students on the challenges of climate change and what is needed to drive the trillions of dollars of new investment in a huge range of sectors, including energy production, housing and infrastructure. Covering a range of topics – from project finance, to integrating climate risks into decision making, and aligning financial portfolios with global climate and sustainability goals – the programme prepares our graduates to deliver the needed investment.

To achieve this, in the classroom we aim to blend whenever theory and practice – whether through applied exercises, guest lecturers and speakers or through our consultancy-focused course. For example, during semester two of the MSc, groups of five to six students work with private and public-sector organizations on a project as part of the 20 credit Climate Change Consulting Project course. In this interdisciplinary course, students see the real-world, climate change-related challenges that a private or public-sector organization is experiencing. Working with their client, students investigate and try to solve this challenge in the form of a consulting project. At the end of the course students present their findings and solutions through video presentation and a written consulting report. Last years’ collaborators included: Longspur Research, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, Climate Bonds Initiative, among others.

This programme reflects the Business School’s recognition of the importance of climate change and sustainability for the investment and finance industry. In February 2020, UEBS launched the new Centre for Business, Climate Change, and Sustainability (B-CCaS), combining two established and world-renowned research centres: the Centre for Business and Climate Change and the Sustainable Business Initiative. B-CCaS draws on over a decade’s experience engaging with large and small businesses, policy makers, non-governmental institutions, and others, providing research, advice, consultancy, executive education, graduate introductions, and more. Climate-related issues and sustainability are also being increasingly integrated across the curriculum at UEBS, in part thanks to the dedicated support B-CCaS has made available to course organizers and programme directors.

Today, our graduates are much sought after in the field and work with some of the most impactful actors in climate change and sustainability. We also pride ourselves on the partnerships and opportunities that we have developed with industry around our programme – whether through guest speakers, student-led consultancy projects or joint research through company sponsored dissertations.

To learn more about the MSc Climate Change Finance and Investment, please see the our programme page here:

To learn more about the partnership opportunities we have developed with external contacts and an overview of our 2020-2021 graduating class, please see our partnership book available here:

Finally, to learn more about the Centre for Business Climate Change and Sustainability (B-CCaS), please see our webpages here:

Ian Cochran

Ian is part of the Accounting and Finance Group in the University of Edinburgh Business School and is a member of the Centre for Business, Climate Change and Sustainability (B-CaSS). As a Lecturer, he is the course organiser for three courses in the MSc in Climate Change Finance & Investment: Climate Policy & Investment, International Climate Finance and Climate Risk & Investment Alignment.

Adelaide Grosse

Adelaide (Addie) Grosse is an Edinburgh based illustrator who developed her skills and style in Shanghai. Her practice is focused on science communication, humour with a hint of darkness, and flowing inkbrush lines. When Addie isn’t drawing, she’s playing soccer or wandering wild places.

Instagram: @addiegrosse

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