A billion-dollar carbon market and opportunities surrounding the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) could be the boost the legal economy needs to escape the economic slump.
According to Southern Cross University academic and finance lecturer Scott Niblock, there are numerous opportunities for Australian businesses to come as a result of the CPRS which is scheduled to come into force in 2010.
For lawyers, the opportunities too could be numerous, as small-to-medium sized enterprises turn to legal advisors for assistance in understanding and contributing in the carbon market.
"Small-to-medium sized enterprises won't be trading the permits, as that will happen higher up, but costs and processes will be passed down," said Niblock, who believes the potential for the smaller end of town is currently being overlooked.
Niblock, who is researching through his PhD the opportunities and risks for small businesses in the carbon market, said the legal community has an opportunity to work closely with business in handling the emerging change.
"When you think that there are eight million businesses in Australia, it's really a large market that can be tapped," he said.
Niblock believes the global financial crisis is preventing businesses recognising the true potential of a carbon market to generate a boom in the economy. He believes that, just as in the lead-up to the dotcom boom, there are plenty of start-ups and small businesses with great ideas for working with the carbon market, but little capital to get such ideas off the ground.
He said that, for many businesses with the right advice, carbon could be seen as an asset: "Given the current global financial crisis, carbon could be included as a financial asset in portfolios to reduce risk and enhance returns," he said.
"It could also be a liability on the balance sheets of Australian businesses, so being prepared to take advantage of green opportunities and being aware of the associated risks is essential."
- Angela Priestley