POLIS at GLOBE Forum 2024

Working for Watersheds hosts first-ever water track

Published On: February 29th, 2024

From February 13th to 15th, POLIS’ Oliver M. Brandes and Bridget McGlynn were in Vancouver for the GLOBE Forum—North America’s premier event for leaders and change-makers at the forefront of advancing a regenerative and equitable economy.

POLIS’ Oliver M. Brandes offers concluding remarks at GLOBE 2024

The GLOBE Forum is a convening event that brings together influencers from different sectors, with an emphasis on business and industry. As such, the sessions focused on internal business action and potential contributions and collaborations within a broader economic transition. There was enormous energy around acting on nature from the business perspective.

This was the first time that GLOBE, in collaboration with the Working for Watersheds Initiative, had a water track with a specific focus on ensuring water security. The Working for Watersheds Initiative (which POLIS helped catalyze and has supported in an advisory role since it launched in 2020) is a collaboration between industry, government, Indigenous communities, and several non-profit organizations and works to enhance the future economic impact of the watershed sector. Its Working for Watersheds Roadmap (October 2023) lays out a strategic vision for how to grow and develop British Columbia’s watershed sector and achieve a thriving, regenerative economy in the next decade.

As a part of GLOBE’s water track, Working for Watersheds hosted the initial, by-invitation session Capital for Conservation, which focused on innovative finance models for nature and water. B.C. Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship Nathan Cullen opened the session by describing the provincial government’s commitment to protect 30 per cent of lands in B.C. by 2030 and to advance Indigenous-led conservation. He also discussed the need for durable, lasting change to emphasize preemptive action.

Following Minister Cullen’s remarks, two panels focused on possible funding models and opportunities for watersheds. The panellists offered a variety of perspectives and expertise. Longstanding POLIS collaborator Zita Botelho, Director of Watersheds BC, was one of the panellists. Key points from the discussion included:

  • Peer-to-peer relations and collaboration are required for good co-governance, to expand involvement among a variety of actors, and to ensure long-lasting change.
  • Long-term base funding is needed to allow smaller organizations or governments to maintain the human capital required to get work done, whether that is acquiring more money, maintaining relationships, or implementing projects.
  • A broader suite of key indicators is needed that reflects the whole system surrounding watershed benefits and that will be of interest to industries based on their reporting requirements.

POLIS Water Sustainability Project Lead Oliver M. Brandes offered concluding remarks at the Ensuring Water Security session. The session, also a component of the water track, provided an outcome-focused workshop on sharing key actions that facilitate the cross-sector and cross-industry approaches needed to achieve water security. Oliver summarized some of the highlights from the multiday event, in particular noting how water was “showing up” and how authentically it was emerging as a priority and point of focus for many of the diverse speakers and projects. He also focused on a some of the priorities needed to effectively move forward, what he called “how we know we are winning.” He focused on:

  • Education and training. It’s not just about pumping in dollars, we need capacity and capability, and we need innovation and energy. This will come from effectively engaging youth and the next generation.
  • Show us the money! It’s important that the emerging investments from the provincial government be a source of sustainable funding. This is the fuel that will get us to our collective vision.
  • The opportunity of industry and business. We need to really understand how important water is to their future and their profitability. They need water and, thus, need government to do its work being a good land and water manager—not just for today, but for tomorrow and into the ever more complex and uncertain future.

As part of the main event, Premier David Eby also gave a keynote. He spoke about the need to take proactive measures to address drought, watershed security, and wildfire, as well as the co-governance work being done in the Cowichan watershed.

Throughout the forum, the Working for Watersheds team was able to develop a sense of community and highlight local water successes for a national audience. The Working for Watersheds Initiative will continue to foster the conversations started at GLOBE as it continues its work bringing the Working for Watersheds Roadmap to action and advocating for watershed security.