New Chair, Forum to Promote Public Participation in Environmental Goverance

When it comes to setting environmental policies, governments are relying much less on public participation and stakeholder input than they used to.

A panel of international scholars, business executives and heads of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will discuss the impacts of this shift at a special public forum at the University of Guelph Sept. 25.

The discussion runs from 2 to 4 p.m. in the University Centre, Room 103, and is free and open to the public.

The forum marks the launch of the first Kinross Knowledge Exchange Chair in Environmental Governance. Funded by a $1-million gift from Kinross Gold Corp., the chair will bring knowledge and experience from environmental governance practitioners and researchers to teaching of the topic.

It’s also intended to foster new environmental governance research based on experience in governments, the business sector and civil society. The new chair will also translate research and teaching into meaningful partnerships, programs and initiatives. The chair is part of the University’s BetterPlanet Project.

The inaugural chair holder is George Greene, who has worked on environment and sustainable development policy and governance in Canada and internationally for 35 years with governments, industry, NGOs and international organizations.

Greene will work with undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, community groups, public-sector agencies and industry through advocacy, seminars, lectures and electronic media.

“Canadian organizations – government and industry – have a substantial track record of involving the public, stakeholders and Aboriginal groups in the formulation of public and organizational policy,” Greene said.

“But over the past ten years there has been a steady decline in such practices, particulary among governents in Canada and participating in international environmental negotiations. Meanwhile industry , NGOs and Aboriginal groups have developed their own mechanisms for direct engagement with each other. This forum will explore the verity of these observations and, more significantly, debate whether these shifts toward less inclusive policy-making are for the good.”

The seminar will feature Gord Lambert, vice-president of sustainable development for Suncor Energy in Calgary; Alan Young, executive director of the Canadian Boreal Initiative; Farooq Ullah, executive director-designate for the Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future in London, England; Mike Wilson, executive director, Sustainable Prosperity and Environment Canada’s former director general for partnerships and consulations; and Barry Smit, a U of G geography professor and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Change. It will be moderated by Green and geography professor Ben Bradshaw.

At Guelph, Greene will work with University students and faculty and community partners on current and emerging environmental issues. He is based in the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences (CSAHS).

Kerry Daly, CSAHS dean, said: “This is not your typical academic chair. It’s designed to be a portal for knowledge and information exchange, so it will be held by a succession of environmental leaders rather than one scholar. It will add a vibrant dimension to undergraduate and graduate studies, a quality of learning experience not found in a textbook.”

Greene is founding chair of Stratos Inc., a sustainability management consulting firm that helps business and government organizations  manage their environmental and social issues as contributors to sustainable development.

He has been deputy head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); an environmental manager in the oil and gas and mining industries; and director general of policy development at the Canadian International Development Agency. He has served on the board of the Sierra Club of Canada Foundation and the Council of the Global Environment Facility, and was recently re-elected to the global council of the IUCN.


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