It is apparent to me that COP21 will be a milestone on the path towards a world that is more sustainable. I have been participating in these conferences for the last decade, and each year I see companies and countries taking on more serious commitments to help the planet.
Not only are companies ‘upping their game’ in the climate fight, making more serious pledges to become increasingly energy efficient and reliant on renewable power, but the technology needed to deliver these gains is developing apace. For example, a 2015 Deutsche Bank report predicts that zero-emission solar power will achieve grid parity in 80 percent of the global market by 2017.
Technology-driven sustainability gains are being amplified by widespread Internet connectivity and the advent of the Internet of Things, the cornerstone of “smart” homes, buildings, manufacturing plants and cities. In the next five years, two billion more people are expected to gain access to the Internet, but so, too, are 50 billion machines!
With more and more meters and power-consuming devices connected to the Internet, the ability to use Big Data to shape power use will augment human decision-making, and in some instances supersede it, to optimize sustainable outcomes.
While we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all quarters, we must do so understanding that energy demand will continue to increase throughout the 21st century as the world’s population grows. At Schneider Electric we are investing in programs that provide low-cost access to renewable power where energy costs are prohibitively high. We must also create renewables-based energy solutions for the more than 1.1 billion people worldwide who currently have no access to energy.
Today the power is in our hands to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon-reducing technologies, ongoing innovation and universal Internet access combined with the demands of an enlightened population promise a radical transformation in how energy is generated, stored, transmitted and consumed. Positive change is happening. Now we must accelerate it.
One way to do so would be to adopt a global mechanism for pricing carbon. Governments, businesses and citizens all understand that emitting greenhouse gases is not “free” – it comes at a cost to the environment that is threatening our very existence. Putting a price on these emissions will further reward organizations that understand sustainability is more than a marketing slogan. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said, “There is no ‘Planet B’.” Sustainable practices are the only way to do business on Planet A.