Interview with John D. Wiebe, President and CEO of the Globe Group

John D. Wiebe, President & CEO of the Globe Group

By Lily Yumagulova

The increasing number of extreme weather events and financial losses from natural hazards and the increasing interdependency of public and private sectors necessitate building stronger connections between the public sector, industry and businesses. Creating these connections needs to be one of the strategic goals for CRHNet moving forward.

Taking one small step in this direction, HazNet interviewed John D. Wiebe, President & CEO of the Globe Group, spearheaded by the not-for-profit GLOBE Foundation, an organization that focuses on innovative technologies and an international champion of environmental business prior to Globe 2014. The interview focused on the expectations and highlights of the upcoming conference.

Every two years, the Globe conference brings together environmental business leaders, corporate environmental managers, and sustainability practitioners to focus on corporate sustainability, business growth, energy and climate change solutions and urban development. Described as “North America’s largest international environmental business summit,” this year the GLOBE conference in Vancouver is based around the theme of “Resilient Cities.” This theme signals a strong interest and serious concern that business and industry have regarding extreme events and climate change in urban settings. This theme is driven by the fact that the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events in North America has grown steadily over the last two decades, culminating in 2013 with a record of natural disaster insurable losses of $3 billion in Canada alone, due largely to major floods in Alberta and Ontario.

Lily: Why the “Resilient Cities” theme this year?

JW: When you go through the planning process and engage in developing cities you want to ensure that you are not creating systems and procedures that result down the road that you become locked into taking a certain direction. Planning needs to take into account changing technology, it needs to take into account the future and so in that way you become more resilient.

Lily: How is resilience different from sustainability for you?

JW: It’s not a great deal different. Both words can be difficult to interpret but the concept of resiliency, for me, it changes over time, it has the ability to focus on the future and to take into account natural disasters, for example. I suppose if you were to think about sustainability it might be the same but I think it has a different connotation given that we need to think about changes in weather, global warming, urbanisation is increasing, technology is changing… We need to ensure that we are resilient. Sustainability is a context for resilience.

Lily: Globe has been focusing on building strategic alliances with business and environmental sectors. Who else do you think should be at the table if we are getting serious about resilience?

JW: City administrators, architects, planners… We are focused on the technological side of it; we are not focused on the public engagement side, that’s a whole different story. We are technologically focused, so it is companies, government and management.

Lily: What do you hope will be some of the outcomes or solutions out of this conference?

JW: We provide a dialogue platform for exploration. We are an international non-forprofit and not an advocacy group, so what comes out is what people who come here want to come out.

Lily: What are some of the highlights that you are looking forward to?

JW: All the speakers that are coming here; and hearing about the international perspectives from around the world. I think this will be an interesting dialogue about what people have done and what they are looking to do.

Lily: Is there anything else that would like to highlight to our readers who primarily consist of disaster and emergency management specialists?

JW: I think that is the whole issue: how do you deal with resilience issues that are increasingly challenging your readers and others? How do you plan for and deal with emergency situations? What are the steps that one needs to take, not only as a company, but for governments and cities that’s going to help to avoid, or if not avoid then make it easier to deal with, floods in Calgary or rising sea levels? We have John Englander coming who has written about sea level rise and how that is going to affect the cities. That’s the kind of discussions that we want to have. What is the outcome of that? Do we build the dikes all around the city? Do we tear down the buildings around the sea shore? What do we actually do? So, that’s the dialogue we are hoping to have. Pricing risk is another focus of the conference this year: “How is the insurance industry in North America dealing with growing annual losses of such magnitude in order to continue protecting homeowners and businesses? What should industry, governments, and the public do to better prepare and reduce their vulnerabilities to extreme weather events?” According to an interview with Rob Wesseling, Executive Vice President, National P&C Product at The Co-operators, Canadians need to model and monetize the natural disaster risk that they are exposed to and base their development and adaptation decisions on this knowledge in order to develop appropriate solutions to transfer remaining risk. This requires a broad based and coordinated response from all three levels of government, builders, developers, lending institutions, insurers, reinsurers as well as home and business owners.

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