GLOBE 2010 – a retrospective on tomorrow - a globe-net editorial



GLOBE 2010 wrapped up last week, and to say it was an exceptional experience is an understatement. From the feedback we have received to date, it was an extraordinary event, one that far exceeded our expectations with respect to the intensity of the issues debated throughout the GLOBE conference and in the excitement so evident on the trade fair floor right up to the closing hour.

On the numbers side, there were over 10,000 registered delegates, speakers, exhibitors, and trade fair visitors, 20 international pavilions, and more than 30 visiting delegations from over 80 countries.

But it's what lies behind the numbers that counts the most - people talking to people and making the contacts that lead to sustainable business. This was evident from the raucous opening minutes of the sold out opening reception and GLOBE Awards presentations, through a host of networking events, during the many crowded conference sessions and forums, and especially on the hyper-active trade fair floor. Right up to the final minutes, the intensity level of people-to-people interaction did not let up.

In some respects, GLOBE 2010 was a 'happening' rivaling the inaugural GLOBE event - GLOBE '90, which 20 years earlier had helped set the stage for the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Perhaps, coming mid-way between the less than successful Copenhagen Climate Summit and the upcoming G-8 and G-20 meetings in June, GLOBE 2010 will help position business and government leaders to forge the concrete initiatives needed to move the world forward to a lower carbon future.

From the opening plenary when Mayor Gregor Robertson outlined his vision to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world to the closing Town Hall meeting where experts such as Nicholas Parker, Executive Chair of the Cleantech Group, and Tony Manwaring, Chief Executive of the UK based Tomorrow's Company, the focus was on debating new ideas, exploring the opportunities and challenges that lie before us, and defining the policy changes needed to succeed in a world that is forever changed.

Other top level voices echoed this theme throughout the conference. David Cheesewright, chief executive of Wal-Mart Canada Corp spoke about how green business initiatives can help companies save money and sell products that 'sustain people and the environment and referenced the importance of consumers demanding stronger corporate ethics and more sustainable products.

Frank Wouters, chief executive of Abu Dhabi's Masdar Power described how renewable energy will create a prototype eco-city in the desert sands.

Michael Jantzi, CEO of the firm Jantzi-Sustainalytics, noted how the investment community is now weighing the environmental implications of their decisions, not just because it's the ethical thing to do, 'but because it's good business.'

Top leaders from the energy sector were particularly prominent at GLOBE 2010 outlining measures that are underway to deal with what arguably is the most pressing challenge of our times - the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Judy Fairburn, executive vice-president for environment and strategic planning of Cenovus Energy, a subsidiary of EnCana, pointed out that her company has spent more than $1 billion developing carbon capture and storage technology in Saskatchewan that is likely to become a global prototype. Dennis Welch of American Electric Power, the largest electrical generation and transmission utility in North America, outline his company's efforts to capture CO2 from its coal stack emissions.

At the Energy CEO Dialogue, Clarence Cazalot Jr., CEO of Houston-based Marathon Oil Corp., citing International Energy Agency statistics delivered a hard message that nothing is going to render fossil fuels obsolete tomorrow or make renewable energy suddenly technically and commercially viable. But, he added, governments and industry need a sharper, more immediate focus on energy conservation targets to speed the move toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

In fact, throughout its 20 year history, GLOBE has always sought to break new ground by bringing leaders from business and government together to explore some of the most pressing challenges facing the world today -climate change, energy security, urban sustainability, corporate responsibility, water and waste management, building better cities ... the list goes on, but their importance remains.

What has changed over the years is that many of the concepts explored during the earliest GLOBE events - corporate environmental responsibility, triple bottom-line accounting, green consumerism, carbon reduction etc. - are now standard business practices.

Another dimension of change made very evident at GLOBE 2010 was the diversity of organizations and interests represented - definitely not the usual suspects one would expect at and environmental business conference.

Today's audience is much more attuned to the challenges and opportunities of a truly sustainable society and are prepared to work together to make it happen. Cleantech played a much more prominent role in this GLOBE event, a sign of the growing interest in harnessing technology-based solutions to real world problems.

At GLOBE 2010, as in previous GLOBE events, top leaders from government and all sectors of society, came to Vancouver to bring forward a simple message - that business and government must work together to bring about the changes needed to protect the earth's environment and to make the world a better place in which to live and work.

Perhaps that's the secret of our success; GLOBE has married leading edge thinking with leading edge technologies and practical solutions to our environmental challenges, and while other trade fairs and conferences may be bigger, few have been as important in terms of bringing about real change.

That is why I consider GLOBE 2010 as our most important event to date and the harbinger of more successful 'happenings' for tomorrow.

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