As we move back into in-person networking events, MEIA’s annual Emerging Ideas conference covered many pressing environmental issues from the recent COP26 commitments to Covid recovery, from carbon markets to continuing Indigenous communities’ successes and ongoing challenges. The conference title “NET-Zero Future: Investing in Sustainability” suggests the goal and the path to success. If we are to achieve net-zero, we must invest. The “Perspectives from the Next Generation” panel proved that the current crop of Environmental Studies students are information and solution-oriented, creating a cautious optimism so long as the imperatives of change are met.
This year’s Keynote Speaker Linda Coady, Executive Director of the Pembina Institute presented a detailed overview of the recent COP 26 conference held in Glasgow, Scotland. Conference of the Parties (COP) in its 26th year of reckoning with the science and politics of Climate Change had some notable firsts that Coady presented. Primarily a negotiating event for government bodies to boost or refute their own policy commitments over climate solutions, COP26 for the first time ever, included the importance of nature, Indigenous and local communities, and gender equity as critical issues to ensure transformation. As governments the world over struggle with the “rights” of nature, this is a historic step towards assuring that the remaining ecosystems are protected and allowed to expand. Most important to Telpay’s Environmental Action Plan presented for the first time at COP was a global pledge to stop deforestation. With Telpay’s 35+ years in the electronic payments industry, we have saved over 80,000 mature trees and have now planted over 35,000 trees. Trees remain the most economical climate change mitigation and carbon sequestration tool – not to mention their beauty. While we must continue our efforts to plant trees worldwide as the World Economic Forum drives onward the Trillion Tree Challenge, so too must we protect our old-growth forests globally.
The panel “Investing in Net-Zero for Business” was moderated by Derek Earl, Vice-President of World Trade Centre Winnipeg and founding Director of BizforClimate. BizforClimate is a business-led movement promoting action to address climate change and providing solutions that scale to the economy at large. Telpay is a founding sponsor of BizforClimate and a signatory to its primary organizing tool, the Climate Action Pledge. Other local examples of businesses leading net-zero awareness were represented on this panel by Southport Aerospace and Assiniboine Credit Union. Both companies have achieved environmental accreditation respectively from Climate Smart and B-Corp, discussed the attention to the details of operations, supply chains, and growth models required to achieve these types of accreditation. The environmental accreditation for businesses was expanded upon by Christine VanDerwill, Partnerships and Communications Manager of Climate Smart, a data-driven accreditation program that facilitates businesses to examine their own processes to find savings and reductions leading to net-zero.
Businesses are coming through the challenges presented with a global pandemic. This might be considered a fire-drill for the coming increasing complexities that will present with climate change. Getting to a net-zero future will require investments of time and energy all the while managing the effects of climate change. Tools of flexibility, knowledge, and creativity are resources that will help to collectively pull us through.