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PEI Hosts the Inaugural Global Sustainable Islands Summit

Sean White

/ 5 min read

In May 2024, Prince Edward Island played host to representatives from over 50 islands around the world for the inaugural Global Sustainable Island Summit. These island community leaders met in PEI to share ideas and success stories on sustainability and the impacts of our changing climate.

The Summit was co-hosted by Island Innovation and the Government of PEI and featured sold-out attendance at Rodd Crowbush Golf & Beach Resort. Following the successful conclusion of this exciting new event for PEI, M&CPEI spoke with Steven Myers, PEI’s Minister of Environment, Energy, and Climate Action to learn more about the origins of this conference and the valuable lessons on collaboration we can take away from it.

MCPEI: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Minister Myers and congratulations to your department’s team and the entire team at Island Innovation on hosting such a successful event. How did PEI get the opportunity to host this international conference?  

Minister Myers: I first met James [Ellsmoor, Founder and Director of Island Innovation] I think in 2020. During the pandemic I spoke at a conference virtually for James, and it was my first interaction with him. After that, I got an invitation for a face-to-face meeting, which happened last summer, and it was in Madeira.

So, we went down to Madeira, and I spoke about Prince Edward Island and the Net Zero goals there, and after it was over, we met and had lunch, and I pitched the idea to James to take his conference to PEI. And he was interested. It was through that relationship building and participating in other events with James that got the conference here.

MCPEI: How do these topics of sustainability uniquely affect islands like PEI? 

Minister Myers: I don’t know that they affect us uniquely, but I do think there’s unique qualities about islands that requires sustainability to enacted quicker perhaps than bigger mainland areas. The islands are all small. A lot of the goods that we would need are generally imported, and we need a method to make sure that things that we do, and use are sustainable because of our sheer size. And how to tie that into climate change is, you know, particularly in some of the islands that were here are in southern areas. They’ve really been facing climate change for a long, long time. We’re starting to see it here a lot harsher in Prince Edward Island, but we definitely have a unique perspective on climate change because islands are definitely facing it all the time.

MCPEI: How does this conference help PEI reach our own ambitious climate goals?  

Minister Myers: Well, it’s all about partnerships, and I think one of our climate goals is to be a leader and help other jurisdictions set and reach targets. So we bring people in from all over the world and we met a number of people that have solutions or ideas or things that they think they can help us with. We will follow up over the coming months, and into the fall, with some of the people that we’ve met.

But also, on a similar vein, we had a lot of people talk to us about things that we do and how they can take some of the stuff that we do back to their jurisdiction. I definitely do think being asked to help other countries in the world with climate change shows that we are starting to move the marker, and starting to come into our own when it comes to those goals.

MCPEI: What was the biggest topic of conversation during the conference? 

Minister Myers: I think the big takeaway I heard from people is collaboration. A lot of people seemed to meet a lot of people for the first time and came away with, you know, leads. If you’re a business, they felt like they came away with leads. If you’re a government, they felt like they came away with new partner opportunities around the world.  Everybody has some level of answers in this journey, but together we probably have a bigger answer.

So, I think the big thing that we took away from this was the new partnerships and collaboration covering a large portion of the world. I think over 50 islands were represented at the conference. So, that’s quite a big work to grade all at once for people who really participated and tried to meet as many people as possible.

MCPEI: Was there a particular insight from one of the other island destinations that we can learn from on PEI?  

Minister Myers: For me personally, probably the former Prime Minster of Aruba, who said, you know, back in 2009, he had Aruba slated to be a green island and he had all these green initiatives in place. And then, when there’s an election and government change, the next government came in and their biggest concern was balancing the budget and financial measures, and all the green work went out the window.

So we really have to be careful that we’re not placing our climate action all on one government or one ministry or one person, and that we’re creating leadership throughout the province. And I think we’ve been trying to tackle that with our cleantech initiative. I think we’re trying to grow leaders with the climate school in St. Peter’s [The Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation Residence]. We’re already growing leaders with our cleantech academy. With our partnerships with First Nation communities, we’re seeing new leadership rise up. We need to create multiple leaders throughout Prince Edward Island, at all different levels and at all different capacities, to make sure that this outlives any, you know, any government or any cost cutting measures.

MCPEI: Thank you again Minister Myers for taking the time to provide these great takeaways from the conference. Do you have anything else to share?  

Minister Myers: I’ve obviously been to a number of conferences, and I’ve had the opportunity to speak at a number of conferences, and what we offered was a really unique experience. We had a beautiful backdrop of Crowbush that’s right on the North Shore in the middle of beautiful beaches and a beautiful golf course, and a little bit of seclusion. I don’t think I’ve been in a conference for a long, long time where I saw so many side conversations going on during lunch, breaks, or breakfast in the morning. People were leaving that conference with the most contacts they could ever get out of a conference of any size. I really think that we put on an all-star conference down there. We brought in world class talent, people from all over the world, and I really think people got the most you could possibly get out of a conference because of the quality of people we took in, and I think the location was perfect for what we were trying to do.

Interested in learning more about hosting more sustainable business events in Prince Edward Island? Meetings & Conventions Prince Edward Island are developing resources to assist meeting planners in making sustainable choices that reduce your groups’ environmental impact, support the local community, and make a positive and lasting impact on our destination. To learn more, see our Business Events Sustainability Guide