THE BLOG
07/05/2014 06:37 BST | Updated 06/07/2014 06:59 BST

The Decade of Climate Action

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is both chilling - as we're running out of time to reverse the effects of gas emissions - and encouraging - as catastrophe can still be averted. But to seriously combat climate change the world must act quickly and commit to a decade of renewable energy action.

Effectively, we have 15 years to reverse generations of carbon intensive activity in order to avoid a global temperature increase of 2 degrees centigrade. And to accomplish this, action this decade will be critical. This requires a total re-think about the very industries that enabled Western economies to thrive and that are powering growth throughout the developing world today. Governments and the private sector must reach a consensus - a fair approach - to decarbonize without penalizing countries and stunting economic growth.

The question is: how do we transition to a low-carbon economy, while simultaneously creating economic opportunity? And how do we meet rising energy demands - in both developed and developing economies - with affordable power?

That very challenge was debated and worked on this week during the Abu Dhabi Ascent. The high-level meeting, convened in partnerships with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, was the first international gathering since the IPCC report was released. The UN secretary general challenged world leaders to drive solutions to combat climate change. And the bold actions, forged in Abu Dhabi, will be made public, in September, during the secretary general's Climate Summit in New York.

While reaching a binding agreement to limit carbon emissions is fundamental to scaling up solutions to address climate change, so are immediate, voluntary actions.

The acceleration of wind and solar power is an effective strategy to balance the global energy mix and move toward a sustainable, low-carbon 21st century. And with global energy demands skyrocketing, in many countries, it's a commercially viable solution. While tripling renewable energy capacity by 2050 is a huge task - and a key recommendation made by the IPCC - there is noteworthy momentum.

At the Abu Dhabi Ascent this week, former US Vice President Al Gore highlighted that there was a projection 12 years ago that the world would have one gigawatt of photovoltaic energy by 2010. Gore elaborated that this figure, in fact, was exceeded in 2010 by 17 times, while this year it would be exceeded by 54 times. This growth is fuelling an industrial boom - an opportunity being seized by the United Arab Emirates, (UAE) which is complementing its hydrocarbon exports with wind and solar energy.

Recognizing the long-term economic opportunity of clean energy investments, the UAE has entered into a competitive global race to own a stake in how the world will power its growing societies.

Today, the UAE is the only OPEC nation supplying both traditional and renewable energy to international markets, with a global portfolio that supplies nearly 1 gigawatt of clean power. And as a result, the UAE is powering countries thirsty for energy while energizing its own domestic economic diversification.

In a world where 20 percent of the population still has no access to electricity, renewable energy can help unlock a country's untapped economic potential. In the decade of renewable energy action, collective efforts will not only curb climate change, but electrify societies struggling to grow.

Today, renewable energy is empowering countries in Africa and across the Indian subcontinent. Access to energy helps alleviate poverty while providing access to knowledge and basic services. In fact, the World Bank suggests that Sub-Saharan Africa alone has the potential to generate more than 170 gigawatts of clean power through 3,200 low-carbon energy projects - a move that would result in tremendous economic opportunity and remove 740 million tons of carbon emissions per year.

But for renewable energy to seriously combat climate change, the developed world must also accelerate its adoption. And with the price of wind and solar technology steadily dropping - enabling grid parity - the time is now to commit to sustainable power.

Renewable energy action is underway in many Western countries.

The United States generates almost 14 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, powering 1.6 million homes. And progress is also strong throughout Europe. Iceland is 100 percent powered by geothermal, and countries such as Estonia, Sweden and Bulgaria were Europe's first to reach their 2020 renewables targets.

The effects of climate change are blind to culture, socio-economic status and geography. And today, the costs of climate inaction are piling up. The total devastation caused by climate change is estimated to cost more than $1.2 trillion a year - a startling figure that will only increase if we don't act. So, the sooner we act, the less we'll pay.

We must all embrace a decade of climate action as a defining moment in our history. Through renewable energy deployment, and other mitigation strategies, we can avert climate crisis and lead the world toward shared prosperity, social mobility and resource protection. Economies East and West, big and small, will benefit; society will prosper and our precious eco-system will flourish.

A future of economic and environmental prosperity will only be secured by the collective climate action we take this decade.