2010 - the year that was – a GLOBE-Net editorial

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Source: GLOBE Foundation

It is difficult to sum up in just a few words all that the past year encompassed with respect to the business of the environment. It was a year of important gains, but also a time of setbacks and tragedy. In a way, the top newsmaker of the year was the environment itself.

Natural Disasters - Natural disasters in many parts of the world caused unprecedented hardships. Floods in Pakistan and Australia, typhoons that ravaged Asia, volcanic eruptions and blizzards that paralysed travel across Europe, droughts in sub-Saharan Africa, and in Russia unprecedented forest fires - these were the stories that dominated much of the year's headlines.

The message from those events is clear - we need to do a better job in preparing for a climate that is forever changing. The earth is doing its thing, clearly we are not. 2010 was not a year of 'weird weather'. Let's face it, this is the new climate reality and we need to be better prepared to deal with it.

Unnatural Disasters - Adding to the succession of natural disasters were a few of our own making. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that riveted our attention for over three months was but one of many human-related 'environmental incidents' that proved that the business of the environment is a constant challenge.

The red, toxic waste mudslides in Hungary, the lingering problem of coal ash in the southern US, disturbing reports about contaminated water supplies in our major cities as well as in remote communities, were among the dozens of attention grabbing environmental issues reinforcing the message that there is still much to do to make our cities and towns safe.

Climate Governance - Coming in the wake of the disappointing UN Conference in Copenhagen that was to put the world straight on climate change, 2010 was also a disappointing year in terms of climate policies and international regulatory regimes.

The many Summits that were held in 2010, most notably the recently concluded Cancun climate conference, achieved some minor albeit important gains; but it was only one step on the long road to Rio 2012 and a new post-Kyoto treaty on emissions reductions.

The failure of the US Senate to pass milestone legislation that would have returned the US to a leadership position on climate change was offset by California's electoral defeat of Proposition 23 and the passage of trend-setting legislation to permit carbon trading and the accelerated deployment of job creating clean technology.

The message here is that vision and leadership at local and regional levels of government are as important as actions at the national and international level.

The Economy - On the economic front, the news was mixed at best, but there were some important developments that bode well for the future.

Despite lingering impacts of the economic recession, 2010 saw a virtual explosion in the global deployment of clean and renewable energy technologies. China became the world leader in wind and solar energy deployment, and renewable energy became the cornerstone of government strategies for low carbon economic growth in many countries.

GLOBE's World - 2010 was a momentous year for the GLOBE Foundation as well. GLOBE 2010, our most recent environmental business event, was a roaring success that exceeded all expectations despite tough economic times. Coming in the wake of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, GLOBE 2010 helped to put Vancouver on the world map as never before.

GLOBE is expanding its already impressive global presence by mounting events in Latin America and in the Middle East. In partnership with the Government of Costa Rica, we will launch GLOBE Costa Rica 2011 (June 14-16, 2011), which will build on the success of our Vancouver-based events, while focussing on the unique business opportunities and environmental challenges in Latin America.

A Changing World - GLOBE's other signature event, EPIC 2010 - Vancouver's Sustainable Living Expo, was also a great success, one that we plan to expand on in the Middle East. In a way, EPIC is a sign of another positive trend in the business of the environment, where consumer demand for sustainable products and services is changing the world as we know it - one purchase at a time.

The electric car, for example, long the dream of technology developers, is fast becoming a commercial reality, changing not only how we move about in our cities, but also the nature of cities themselves. Energy saving smart grids and a revolution in handheld electronics are more than rewiring our cities. They are rewiring how we live and work.

Last year GLOBE wrapped up the second phase of its year-long examination of British Columbia's 'Green Economy', analyzing the skills and labour force that will be needed in our low carbon future. The many lessons from this analysis could serve as important tools for governments, businesses and other public interest groups not just in B.C., but across Canada as well.

Wrapping Up - Even in its closing hours 2010 brought new developments of consequence. The environmental impact of Alberta oil sands development, long an issue of international contention, was the subject of an independent review co-chaired by former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and GLOBE Speaker Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

Her report called for better monitoring and reporting on the impacts of oil sands development on the region's air, water, and soil - a message the federal government appears to have taken to heart.

'That is the only way that we can give Canadians - and the rest of the world - confidence that we have implemented and are enforcing a gold standard of sustainability and stewardship,' said Ms Dowdeswell.

Perhaps that was a good note for 2010 to close on - a signal that hopefully, the year ahead will be better than the year that was. We pray it will, but regardless, the business of the environment is a never ending challenge - and is the mission that guides all that we do at the GLOBE Foundation.

We look forward to working with you and hearing from you in the course of the 2011 as we move forward in the new millennium.

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