Click here to access the slide decks from many of the presentations at Newleef 2015.
On October 8-9, 2015, the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association (NEIA) held Newleef – the province’s premier green economy conference.
“Newleef brings industry, small business, academia, and government together to discuss the growth and diversification of the province’s economy through the protection of, mitigation of effects to, or enhancement of the natural environment,” says Ted Lomond, NEIA’s Executive Director. The conference attracts environmental professionals, business owners and entrepreneurs, policy analysts, academia and researchers, and organizations with sustainability objectives.
“NEIA’s members are active in all areas of Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy, from green building, to waste management, to forestry, to oil and gas,” says Lomond. “What binds them is their belief that economic development and environmental health are not mutually exclusive values. Newleef is the one event in the province which brings these likeminded individuals and organizations together.”
Keynote speaker Chris Ragan informs and entertains
In just four years, since the first iteration of Newleef in 2012, attendance at the event has grown by over 100%. The conference has expanded from one day of linear sessions in its first year, to two days of multiple streams of presentations and as many as three concurrent activities for attendees.
“Newleef continues to grow in size and scope,” says Ted Lomond, Executive Director of NEIA. “This is an indication of the growing interest and understanding in this province of the relationship between economy and environment.”
The range of presentations at Newleef 2015 was broad, with sessions exploring business opportunities; the latest in local research; intra-sector innovation possibilities; the navigation of environmental issues with a focus on solutions; and the products, services, and activities of organizations operating in the province. Sessions were grouped according to themes of importance to the local sector, including food and agriculture, resource development, corporate sustainability, industry development, new technologies, and green building.
One of the main attractions at Newleef 2015 was the Innovation Session, an event which highlighted exciting new research in the province and connected local businesses with university and college staff.
“Innovation is a key consideration when we talk about diversifying Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy,” says Lomond. “Innovation in product, process, service, or business model contributes to the long-term international competitiveness of our firms, but it is not something that happens naturally. Our Innovation Session helps create the networks, relationships, and cultures that are necessary in order to give our firms the chance to innovate.”
Innovation does not happen in isolation, and is lagging in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Conference Board of Canada recently gave the province a ‘D’ grade in innovation performance, ranking it 22nd among 26 ranked jurisdictions.
“Innovation is not only an important factor in improving productivity, economic growth, and job creation. It is also essential from an environmental perspective,” explains Lomond. “Living in communities that are often isolated, remote, and natural resource dependent can pose environmental challenges. New and creative ideas are required in this province to develop the unique solutions we need to avoid or mitigate the environmental effects of our business activities.”
The Innovation Session featured over 40 rapid-fire presentations, drawing environmental sector researchers across a range of disciplines including engineering, marine systems, geography, biology, business, chemistry, geo sciences, environmental studies, environmental policy, food sciences, technology programs, etc. The event gave firms an opportunity to discover local research expertise with an aim to solving existing product and service challenges or generate new business ideas and initiatives.
“This was the fourth Innovation Session we have organized,” says Lomond. “In each of the previous years, our event has resulted in collaborations between industry and academia – collaborations that have been supported by funding agencies.” Particularly engaged in the sessions were the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
Deputy Premier Steve Kent
Newleef 2015 also featured an exclusive and timely session focusing on tackling climate change within the province, and how it might consider moving forward in pricing carbon emissions. “85 percent of Canadians are now living in a province where carbon is being priced,” says Lomond, referring to program implementations in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec . “It is time that Newfoundland and Labrador had an open discussion on when we will do our part for the environment, how we will address our rising greenhouse gas emissions, and how we will help capitalize on the business opportunities this creates.”
Encouraging that discussion at Newleef was Chris Ragan, Chair of Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission and the event’s keynote speaker. “Chris leads a group of experts who take a practical and economic-centric approach to policy development,” says Lomond, noting the approach could be appealing to Newfoundland and Labrador’s decision makers. Ragan’s presentation built a strong case for the province to join the country’s major economies in pricing carbon emissions, and was a highlight for many of the attendees.
The province’s Minister Responsible for the Office of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency added a local context to the conversation, outlining specific factors Newfoundland and Labrador needs to consider when assessing pricing options. The climate change session also featured an expert assessment on the needs and challenges the province faces in adapting to its shifting climate.
“Newleef presented the most comprehensive public discussion on climate change and carbon emissions pricing that our province has seen,” says Lomond. “It provided an excellent base from which industry and environmental stakeholders can choose how to proceed. We look forward to being part of that discussion and that decision.”
NEIA’s Chair Deidre Puddister and Leader of the Official Opposition Dwight Ball
The discussions held at Newleef 2015 were timely. The event preceded a provincial election by just over one month. Each provincial political party had the opportunity to address attendees and outline their visions for Newfoundland and Labrador’s green economy, while guests had the opportunity to meet and share ideas and concerns.
“On behalf of our membership, we engage the province’s leaders on a regular basis both face-to-face and in writing to indicate the needs of the sector,” says Lomond. “Newleef is a chance for these leaders to demonstrate their commitment to the industry and to discuss issues directly with stakeholders.”
Lomond says NEIA’s members were pleased with Newleef 2015. “Newleef is the best opportunity in the province for the discussion of issues of common economic and environmental interest,” he explains. “Planning has already begun for next year’s event”.
NEIA is a not-for-profit association of businesses that promotes the growth and development of the green economy in Newfoundland and Labrador. More information on NEIA and Newleef can be found at www.neia.org.