This post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers pick one big idea that will shape 2014. See all the ideas here.
My big idea is not new. Nor is it, in the larger sense, mine. But it is an idea that will be one major focus of my work next year, and one in which I believe deeply. In 2014, we must turn the greatest collective challenge facing humankind today – climate change – into the greatest opportunity for common progress towards a sustainable future. Next year is the year for climate action.
We can delay no longer. Our hopes of eradicating poverty, achieving the Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015 and implementing an ambitious development agenda beyond 2015 rest on tackling this challenge now. The costs of inaction will only rise.
Countries have agreed to finalize an ambitious global legal agreement on climate change by 2015. But there is a steep climb ahead and 2014 is a pivotal year for generating the action and momentum that will propel us forward.
Ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising and the oceans are becoming more acidic. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise – we e are the first humans ever to breathe air with 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Extreme weather events – heat waves, floods, droughts and tropical cyclones – are more frequent and severe.
We need look no further than the recent catastrophe in the Philippines. All around the world, people now face and fear the wrath of a warming planet.
The science is clear. Human activities are the dominant cause of climate change. We cannot blame nature.
I am deeply concerned that the scale of our actions is still insufficient to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, the point where the most dangerous impacts of climate change are expected to take hold.
Yet I am also hopeful because I see gains on multiple fronts towards a low-carbon future. Many governments, businesses, community groups, women, youth and indigenous leaders are innovating and forging solutions.
New programmes for sustainable cities and climate-smart agriculture are already delivering benefits. Many initiatives are working to reduce emissions and air pollution while strengthening resilience. Countries and companies are realizing the economic advantages of combating climate change. Global demand for clean energy, such as solar and wind, continues to rise very sharply and clean energy investment has quadrupled over the last decade.
We now know it is possible to close the emissions gap. We must build on this momentum.
To achieve the large-scale transformation necessary to stabilize the climate, countries not only need to send the right policy signals and meet their climate finance commitments but also set much bolder targets. Climate finance is an investment in the future. It must not be taken hostage by short-term budget considerations.
The rewards can be considerable. As well as reducing emissions, we can light rural clinics and schools, empower local businesses and invigorate economies. Universal access to clean energy can benefit people’s health and advance gender equality. We can open new markets, create decent jobs, and sustainably design burgeoning urban growth.
Private investment is essential to meet the growing demand for energy in the developing world.
But we cannot mobilize private resources without a public lever. Smart public financing can encourage local and international private investments. Investors and companies need to join forces with the public sector.
I will convene a Climate Summit in New York on 23 September next year, one day before the opening of the annual UN General Assembly debate. This Summit is meant to be a solutions summit, not a negotiating session. I have invited all Heads of State and Government, along with leaders from business and finance, local government and civil society.
I am asking all who come to bring bold and new announcements and action. I am asking them to bring their big ideas.
Until then, I will continue to put every effort into mobilizing political will, moving financial investors, influencing business leaders and motivating people everywhere to do all they can.
Rising to the challenge of climate change is a big idea for next year. But it is also a big idea for the future – of humankind and of our planet. It is a momentous responsibility to shoulder, but I firmly believe that every one of us can step up and become leaders in combating climate change, promoting sustainable development and building lives of dignity for all.
Future generations will judge our action on this issue. In 2014, we have the chance to step over to the right side of history. Let’s take it.
Photo: United Nations