Michael Small



Michael is a Fellow at SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, where he teaches, researches and speaks on climate change and renewable energy issues as well as on issues of global governance.

In 2018 and 2019, he was co-designer and co-instructor of the Centre’s innovative Semester in Dialogue program.

Michael joined the Centre in January 2015 as the first Executive Director of Renewable Cities—a program at the Centre that promotes local government action in a transition to renewable energy. He hosted Renewable Cities' two Global Learning Forums in Vancouver in May 2015 and May 2017.  He organized SFU’s accreditation to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and convened parallel events at COP21 in Paris and COP23 in Bonn. He helped launch the North American Dialogue on Cities and 100% Renewable Energy in San Francisco in July 2016. 

Michael is concurrently an Adjunct Professor at UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and is co-teaching a course on global governance in the Winter term of 2019. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada and is Chair of the International Advisory Committee of U.N. University’s Institute of Water, Environment and Health in Hamilton, Ontario. 

Prior to joining the Centre, Michael spent 33 years as a career diplomat and senior executive in the Canadian Foreign service. He joined the Department of External Affairs in 1981 and had postings to Malaysia, Brazil, Costa Rica and Mexico. From 2000 to 2003 he was Canada's Ambassador to Cuba. He went on to serve in Ottawa as Director-General of Human Rights and Human Security, Assistant Deputy Minister of Global Issues and as Assistant Deputy Minister of Human Resources. He was Canada's foreign affairs sous-sherpa for the 2007 and 2008 G8 Summits and was responsible for the coordination of Canada's participation in a wide range of multilateral institutions, including the United Nations, the Commonwealth, La Francophonie, the Arctic Council, the OECD and the G8. Michael's concluding diplomatic assignment was as Canada's High Commissioner to Australia from 2010 to 2014, with concurrent accreditation to seven Pacific Island countries.  

Michael is a Fellow of the Weatherhead Centre for International Affairs at Harvard University and was in residence at the Centre from 2003 to 2004. He has degrees from Princeton University, the University of Toronto and Cambridge University. He is the author of The Forgotten Peace: Mediation at Niagara Falls, 1914.

About Michael's Fellowship

Michael Small's work as Fellow at the Centre focuses on climate change and energy transition, with particular attention to the long-term goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

During his fellowship, Michael is working with colleagues in the Centre to research successful examples of citizen engagement and public deliberation around climate action from jurisdictions across North America, Europe and beyond. He also tracked preparations for COP26 in Glasgow and planned for the participation of SFU staff and students as observers at that COP, in his capacity as the designated contact point for the university with the UNFCCC.


More recently, dialogue has been the core methodology for his teaching work as one of the co-instructors in the summer 2018 Semester in Dialogue on Energy Futures and as the lead instructor in the fall 2019 Semester in Dialogue on Climate Futures. Michael Small has also been an adjunct faculty member at UBC's School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, teaching a Master's level seminar on global governance in the winter term in 2019, 2020 and in the current winter term in 2021.

Engaging the Public on Climate Solutions

In 2020, Michael was part of the Centre's team that provided advice to Environment and Climate Change Canada on strategies for public engagement around the long-target of net zero emissions by 2050.

Michael has hosted public dialogues at the Centre with visiting senior policy-makers from Global Affairs Canada and continues to serve as an informal liaison between the Centre and that Department. 

Michael has used dialogue in his past work in hosting public events on climate change under the Centre's series of Carbon Talks and as the lead organizer of the Renewable Cities Global Learning Forums in 2015 and 2017.