Last month, the 2015 Paris Climate Conference triumphantly wrapped up as leaders representing nearly 200 countries approved a historic agreement and committed to ambitious action to address global warming. As the applause is fading, one question lingers: What next?
The answer is GLOBE 2016, says Nancy Wright, chief operating officer of the GLOBE Series.
Coming to Vancouver from March 2 to 4, the GLOBE 2016 Conference and Innovation Expo is North America’s largest and most influential sustainable business leadership summit. Designed for business, government and civil society leaders, GLOBE provides a high-level forum for inspiration and collaboration on how to leverage markets and innovation to address global environmental challenges.
Ms. Wright believes the timing of the conference couldn’t be better.“Climate change is a tremendous challenge, but is also the biggest economic opportunity of our lifetime,” she says.
“If we’re going to solve climate change challenges, we’ll need unprecedented collaboration – within companies and across whole industries,” adds Ms. Wright. “GLOBE is the world’s largest and most influential forum for this meeting of the minds.”
“Whenever we see policy leadership – as we just did in Paris – opportunity and investment follow closely behind. At GLOBE, business leaders step in where governments leave off and parlay those commitments into infrastructure on the ground.”
GLOBE 2016 brings together a range of leaders representing corporations and governments, as well as non-governmental organizations, international agencies, financiers and technology and service providers. Delegates aren’t there to congratulate one another – they come to shape future markets, test public policy approaches and forge deals, partnershipsand collaborations.
One of the most anticipated themes that will be discussed is financing the green infrastructure that will need to be built to make good on the commitments made in Paris.
Translating policy into business activation
Ian McKay, CEO of the Vancouver Economic Commission and speaker at GLOBE 2016, believes the COP21 commitments will trigger transformational business opportunities. “There has been a lot of pent-up demand at the corporate level and the venture capital level to activate projects and investments in clean technology and sustainable economic development,” he says.
Mr. McKay is convinced an accelerated pace of investment, innovative discovery and economic opportunities will follow. “It’s going to filter down to companies and investors looking for cities where they can launch projects, invest capital and find sustainable solutions.”
This trajectory aligns well with the city of Vancouver’s aim to become the greenest city in the world by 2020 and a 100 per cent renewable city by 2050.
Since about 80 per cent of the world’s emissions are attributed to cities, Mr. McKay believes it is necessary to translate policy into business activation in order to meet emission reduction targets.
“There are many levels of policy framework at the national, provincial and city level,” he explains.
“Policy is great, but what does it mean for businesses and their role in meeting our emission reduction goals?”
Advancing sustainability solutions with public-private partnerships
For Leah Lawrence, president and CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), a key message coming out of the COP21 conference in Paris is to utilize the public-private partnership model for scaling up sustainable innovation to the magnitude needed for meeting emission targets. An example of concrete steps utilizing this “thoughtful and proven approach” is Mission Innovation, a U.S. initiative announced by Bill Gates and President Barack Obama.
“Often, the good ideas come from the public sector and then the private sector figures out how to commercialize them,” says Ms. Lawrence, who cites aerospace, nuclear science and oil sands as Canadian sectors with a history of public-private partnerships.
With its mandate to support the development of innovative clean technologies, SDTC has invested in roughly one-third of Canadian companies that are active in sustainable and clean technology. “In that space, which is quite research intensive, it usually takes about 10 to 15 years to commercialize a technology,” she explains.
SDTC has one of the largest clean-tech portfolios in the world, with companies that understand how to take ideas to the next level and create sustainable growth for the Canadian economy, says Ms. Lawrence, who sees GLOBE 2016 as an opportunity for industry leaders to share their expertise, form partnerships and inspire the next wave of innovators.
Translating Paris commitments into concrete goals
To meet the commitments set in Paris, Canada needs a plan, says Merran Smith, director of Clean Energy Canada and member of the GLOBE 2016’s advisory panel on climate, corporations and communities. “Greenhouse gas emission targets can be hard to understand,” she acknowledges. Ms. Smith recommends setting achievable goals for specific sectors, such as electricity, transportation and buildings to make targets more tangible. “Right now, we are at over 60 per cent renewable electricity. By 2030, do we want to be at 80 per cent? Can we achieve close to 100 per cent by 2050?”
For mapping out next steps, Ms. Smith recommends answering questions such as: Do we want to double the use of transit in Canada, or can we triple it by 2030? How about electric vehicles? There are about 15,000 electric vehicles in Canada right now; what number should we aim for by 2030? “Let’s make those numbers real for Canadians,” she suggests.
While a national plan is called for, provincial initiatives are bound to vary, according to Ms. Smith. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia will need to phase out coal and replace it with renewables, while other provinces need to tackle emission sources like buildings and transportation.
“By setting concrete goals, we give the investment community confidence about the direction we are moving in,” says Ms. Smith, adding that GLOBE 2016 presents an opportunity to foster synergy between all levels of governments and the business sector.
It is North America’s longest-running corporate environmental business event. This landmark conference will bring together 3,000 participating organizations, 1,600 conference delegates, 600 presidents and CEOs, 250 exhibiting companies and
250 conference speakers, representing 50 countries.
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