In a couple of weeks, New York City will be host to more than a hundred events about climate change. From roundtables showcasing the latest low carbon innovation, to mass gatherings demanding climate action, this unprecedented mobilization, under the umbrella of Climate Week NYC, will be critical to the success of the UN Climate Summit convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on September 23. With little over a year to go until crucial climate talks in Paris in December 2015, I hope this week will show we've moved on from finding excuses not to act and arguing about whose approach is best, to working together and taking decisive action now.
This month in New York, the business voice will be heard loud and clear. More companies and investors are committed to bold climate action than ever before. I will take part in the launch of "We Mean Business," a new coalition of organizations working with thousands of the most influential corporate leaders, that attests to this fact. We Mean Business will highlight the economic opportunity offered by a low carbon future.
And there has never been a better time to talk about the benefits of what I call the "clean industrial revolution." The technology that is needed for this new economy exists today and is proven, and it is being deployed commercially around the world. The proof is in the markets. Research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows global investment in clean energy last year was U.S. $254 billion. Even though this is still only 15 percent of overall energy supply investment, renewables are expected to represent two-thirds of power investment by 2030.
A separate study by CDP, an organization which works with investors and corporations to disclose their emissions (and this year is the co-convenor of Climate Week NYC with The Climate Group), reveals that those businesses who commit to carbon reduction projects see an average rate of return on investment of 33 percent, with payback taking just three years. This investment is already driving jobs: last year in the U.S. alone, 1 in every 142 jobs was created in the burgeoning solar energy sector.
Postponing the clean revolution would only result in bigger costs for business, greater disruption to industry, and less chance of success. In fact, a White House report published in July estimates that delaying policy action on climate for a decade would increase total mitigation costs by approximately 40 percent, with no action at all risking 'substantial economic damage.'
To put it simply, there are three choices: do nothing and face economic and environmental meltdown; wait and perhaps prevent dangerous climate change but at a significant cost; or act now and create a high-value sustainable economy. Put like that, there's obviously only one sensible option.
I believe that the Paris climate talks next year have enormous potential to deliver a charter for real collaborative action on climate change, and for us to make this collective common-sense choice. But it depends on the will of government leaders. Without support at the domestic level, the scope of a bold global agreement is greatly reduced. And this month's Climate Summit in New York is where we will hopefully witness this leadership. It's good news that President Obama has announced he will attend the Summit and I hope many other heads of state will follow suit.
With its 100 affiliate events in support of the UN Summit, Climate Week NYC will propel climate change back to the top of the global agenda and convince world leaders to demonstrate bold commitments now. This is a unique chance to help secure a climate deal in Paris next year -- and to be on the right side of history.
This post is part of a month-long series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with a variety of events being held in September recognizing the threats posed by climate change. Those events include the UN's Climate Summit 2014 (to be held Sept. 23, 2014, at UN headquarters in New York) and Climate Week NYC (Sept. 22-28, 2014, throughout New York City). To see all the posts in the series, read here.
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