International collaboration for energy efficiency and renewable crucial to drive global sustainability

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has underscored the urgency of climate action, calling for a halving of emissions by 2030 to stay on course with the 1.5°C target. This dire situation demands global cooperation in bolstering energy efficiency and adopting renewable energy sources to create a sustainable future. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook for 2023 indicates a pivotal shift with the long-standing 80% share of coal, oil, and natural gas in global energy supply expected to decrease to 73% by 2030. This decrease signifies a momentous change, suggesting a gradual transition away from fossil fuels toward more sustainable energy sources. However, reaching global climate goals will require a significant reduction in the demand for these fuels, which remains high.

A just and equitable energy transition is central to global efforts against climate change. Forging partnerships between Global North and the Global South is crucial, enabling a collective investment in clean energy technologies and financial mechanisms that promote sustainable development. According to IRENA’s analysis, to achieve a sustainable energy future, over 90% of the solutions will involve renewable energy through direct supply, electrification, energy efficiency, green hydrogen, and bioenergy combined with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) by 2050. Furthermore, to align with a positive economic and environmental trajectory, energy transition investments will need to increase significantly.

Strategies for cross-country cooperation are as varied as they are crucial. Joint research and development can spur innovation in green technology, while multinational agreements can incentivize carbon reduction. Trust, shared goals, and the recognition of the boundless nature of environmental challenges are the pillars of such collaborations. In 2022, global investment in energy transition technologies, including energy efficiency, reached a record high of USD 1.3 trillion. Investment in renewable energy also hit an unprecedented USD 0.5 trillion, but this figure represents less than one-third of the average investment needed each year to stay on track to achieve the 1.5°C scenario outlined by IRENA.

The establishment of international standards for energy efficiency and the creation of green trade zones can catalyze change, encouraging the exchange of renewable technologies and services. These frameworks incentivize nations to integrate sustainability into their economic strategies, which is increasingly relevant as renewable energy grows. In 2022, renewable energy, notably solar and wind, continued to strengthen, securing a 7.5% share of primary energy consumption worldwide—an increase of nearly 1% from the previous year

Financial mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund play a key role in supporting developing countries’ shifts to sustainable energy, crucial for a stable global future. While the IEA notes improvements in energy efficiency, these advances must accelerate to meet the ambitious global targets set for 2030. The current pace, although improved from the past decade, is not yet sufficient, underscoring the importance of ongoing investment and policy reinforcement.

Public-private partnerships can drive large-scale sustainable projects, while education and public awareness campaigns lay the groundwork for a society that values sustainability.
Technological advances in renewable energy, coupled with innovative business models and regulatory frameworks, are essential for a low-carbon future. However, achieving the global target to triple renewable capacity by 2030 requires significant financial support and reform, with current efforts indicating that global installed renewable power generation capacity must expand more than threefold by this date.

Youth engagement through education, innovation challenges, and leadership opportunities is crucial for sustaining climate action momentum. Their fresh perspectives and vested interest in the future render them key players in the march towards sustainability. Globally, a shift in energy demand patterns is anticipated as economic growth rates evolve, potentially leading to a plateau in energy consumption in some of the world’s previously fastest-growing economies. This represents a pivotal change in the global energy landscape, emphasizing the importance of sustained and innovative approaches to meet our climate goals.

In the MENA region, flagship projects such as the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in the UAE, with its future capacity of 5,000 MW by 2030, and Egypt’s Benban Solar Park, among the largest solar installations globally, exemplify the impactful contributions regional efforts can make toward worldwide sustainability. These initiatives highlight the potential for significant progress when collaborative efforts focus on scaling up renewable energy infrastructure, suggesting a bright future for sustainable development bolstered by such pioneering projects.

The UAE’s Net Zero 2050 Commitment, in line with its hosting of COP28, underscores significant national initiatives with worldwide impact. Aiming to balance energy demand with environmental sustainability, the UAE is driving the growth of renewable energy. The nation’s strategy includes a substantial increase in renewable energy capacity, aiming to triple its contribution by 2030 and bolstering investments in clean energy. Notably, the strategy emphasizes the promotion of both renewable and nuclear energies, reflecting the UAE’s broad approach to achieving a diversified and sustainable energy mix.

NYU Abu Dhabi’s Climate Action Plan, aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050, reflects our commitment to sustainability. Our involvement in the Universities Climate Network and partnership with COP28 highlight the role academia plays in environmental stewardship. By fostering research and innovation, NYUAD is at the forefront of academic institutions contributing to a sustainable future.

International collaboration in energy efficiency and renewable energy is the cornerstone of a sustainable global future. The initiatives of the UAE and institutions like NYU Abu Dhabi serve as inspiring examples of the progress achievable when we unite in purpose and action. As we approach COP28 and beyond, let us embrace the spirit of collaboration essential for turning our sustainable visions into realities.

From Crisis to Action: Navigating the Challenges and Solutions at COP28

The 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be a pivotal event in the global climate action agenda. The latest IPCC assessment report published earlier this year highlighted how we are significantly behind the target to maintain global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius. This reality places a heavy responsibility on policymakers to enact bolder and decisive action to put us back on course. COP28 will also witness the conclusion of the inaugural global stocktake, or “the climate
check-up.” Preliminary findings from its synthesis report already underscore the global community’s shortfall in reducing emissions by collectively cutting 22 gigatons of GHG emissions per annum within the next 7 years. It is evident that we stand on the brink of an irreversible crisis, where any delay of decisive climate action could irreversibly damage the living fabric of the planet.

Based on the two latest scientific insights of the IPCC and the global stocktake assessment, COP28 is confronted with significant challenges. This year’s climate dialogue will center on some core issues, such as curbing emissions by 2030–which includes phasing out fossil fuels and accelerating the shift to renewable energy–reshaping the current climate finance system, and fostering collective and
inclusive climate action. Additionally, the conference also ought to prioritize the
integration of climate resilience into development strategies, adaptation measures enhancement for vulnerable communities, a commitment to ecosystem conservation, and holistic solutions on food, agriculture, health, water, relief, and recovery.

We are witnessing progress and political momentum from world leaders and the global community to pursue solutions to climate problems. Notably, the G20 has made
incremental yet meaningful steps in addressing climate change, followed by a commitment to accelerate investment in climate-resilient food systems. At the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and NYC Climate Week 2023, we observed some significant climate commitments by key stakeholders. The efforts undertaken in these pre-COP28 meetings serve to accelerate our efforts toward preventing the bigger catastrophe caused by climate change.

Moreover, there have been some works done on the communal level. Initiatives like the Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE) that started in India, which encourages sustainable
living through individual and collective behavioral shifts, have demonstrated huge potential to expedite climate action. Although individual action may not yield a substantial change, a collective power coupled with appropriate incentives, supporting infrastructure, and policies that support a circular economy, can offer a profound solution to the climate issues. This approach becomes particularly impactful when scaled up on a global scale.

Communal efforts have also made a mark in addressing climate change, as seen in the community-managed regenerative agriculture/natural farming initiative in Andhra
Pradesh, India. This region, once the birthplace of India’s first “Green Revolution” state

and associated with significant biodiversity loss and ecosystem disruption, has now emerged as the country’s pioneer in natural farming. Managed by smallholder farmers, this initiative has turned the tide by not only sequestering carbon and restoring the ecosystem, but also providing the community with employment, better incomes, reduced farming costs, and food security without the expense of destroying natural resources. It has proven that smallholder farming can be economically sustainable, enhancing both farm and ecosystem services. This remarkable shift towards sustainable agriculture could, if scaled up, serve as a blueprint for a globally adaptable, inclusive, and sustainable agricultural model that effectively reduces climate vulnerability.

Both examples above underscore that, in addition to the essential transition to clean energy, grounded approaches such as a shift to a circular economy framework using communal efforts, are also crucial to rejuvenating the web of life. Continued investment in human development will lower people’s risk and vulnerability to climate change,
leading to meaningful outcomes.

Addressing climate change demands a paradigm shift towards regenerative development goals – a strategy that goes beyond merely reducing environmental damage to actively restoring our ecosystem. Yet, the urgency of this transition is hindered by a significant shortfall in funding, despite the narrowing window of opportunity. Without adequate investment, even the most innovative climate action plans remain unrealized. This is where sustainable finance comes into play, bridging the gap between ambition and action. Developing countries need about $2 trillion annually to achieve their net-zero emission goals.

COP28 has the potential to act as a powerful catalyst for this people-planet coalition. A virtuous partnership is key to unlocking this huge potential. Collaborative action helps manage risks more effectively, leading to reduced capital costs, and ultimately, unlocking substantial investments. By shifting the mindset, investment in sustainable projects can become a strategic tool for a resilient and thriving global economy.

COP28 offers an opportunity to redefine our climate narrative by championing proactive and innovative solutions. As world leaders, investors, activists, and the public converge, the message is clear: the time for incremental steps is over. We must leap forward with bold, decisive action that will let COP28 be remembered not just for the promises made, but for the concrete actions taken, the partnerships forged, and the transformative journey the world embarks upon.


The UN SDG 13 (Sustainable Development Goals) to combat climate change intricately links all other goals for Agenda 2030. Cities have unique identities in the globalising world and command much beyond their physical space. They consume two-thirds of the world’s energy, and GHG emissions are at their highest in history. Everything and anything cities choose to do from this point forth demands an integrated approach.

Cities, while occupying only 2 per cent of land area, account for over 70 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing the environmental footprint is vital not only to lower GHG emissions but to have a better quality of life with improved air quality, enhanced public health, a developed local economy, and better job opportunities.

Why aim for an equitable climate action?

At the outset, it is crucial to comprehend why the relationship between sustainability and climate change goes beyond reducing upfront carbon emissions. Individual carbon footprints and the impact of climate change demands a cohesive stance on inequality, equity, justice, and poverty eradication.

With an urbanization level of 56 per cent in 2021 to 68 per cent in 2050, urban areas are expected to accommodate 2.2 billion additional residents. The attached carbon emissions are likely to increase in the business-as-usual scenario. The most critical aspect is providing for the escalating populace using inclusive, low-emission strategies.

Currently, the 100 highest emitting urban areas account for 18 per cent of the global carbon footprint. The largest ecological footprints are of the developed nations due to declining urban densities and increasing suburban sprawl – profoundly increasing energy consumption, GHG emissions, and environmental degradation. Contrastingly, the world’s poorest are the ones who have the smallest carbon footprint, constrained voices in decision-making circles, and yet are most vulnerable to the climate crisis.

On the one hand, the poor remain disproportionately affected by the climate crisis, and on the other, they lack financial assistance for climate resilience measures. A good example is Africa and South Asia taking giant leaps to meet the SDG targets, but with skewed progress. Most urban residents in these nations have inadequate access to resources such as energy, which is a prime factor driving low-carbon growth. For instance, in 2019, 2.6 billion people in the developing world lacked clean cooking facilities, and 759 million people lacked access to electricity. How can we then focus on net-zero targets without considering poverty, inequality, education, and health issues?

Need for inclusion and integration

It is believed that rapidly urbanising cities can rely on a compact urban form to avoid higher future emissions. Simultaneously, established cities can reduce emissions through a modal shift, electrification, and densifying of the building stock.

However, it is imperative to remember that advancing mitigation should not contribute to exacerbated inequalities. Individual, household, and group behaviours and consumption patterns vary in rural and urban contexts– socio-demographic and economic status; access to public infrastructure and services; availability, affordability, and accessibility of sustainable choices; and social and cultural settings –within and between countries. The top 1 per cent of income earners have an average carbon footprint of almost 175 times that of an average person in the bottom 10 per cent. The bottom 50 per cent of emitters contribute only 13-15 per cent of global emissions.

Urban expansion is known to increase per capita consumption-based GHG emissions. At the same time, dissociating energy use and emissions from income growth and sharing global carbon emissions among high emitters may require significant institutional changes. Moreover, societal trade-offs through policy measures to boost the inclusion of low-income populations are critical.

It is, but, a balancing game. On one side, being a global challenge, climate change demands internationally coordinated solutions with peculiar consideration for the aid the developing nations need to move towards a low-carbon economy. Conversely, the solutions must first be localised and based on downscaled assessments. Independent short-term plans with no precise alignment with structural inequalities in the long term will only do more damage. We are at a stage where we have to make up for all the damage done so far and design for a liveable future. Inclusive climate action is significant for fighting climate change.

About the Author

Ronika is an Urban Planner, and Designer keen on People-oriented design and Sustainable development. Her work primarily focuses on urban planning and research. In the past, she has worked on urban development and policy formulation projects for the government and other public authorities.

Ronika holds an MSc in International Planning with a specialization in Urban Design from University College London (UCL). She is inclined toward making cities inclusive and liveable by concentrating on the correlation between the public realm, gender, and age.




Maplecroft’s Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI), has repeatedly highlighted the uneven distribution of the impact of climate change across the globe. Densely populated, economically disadvantaged developing countries have been identified as the most vulnerable and at the forefront of climate disasters. Further, the Low Elevation Coastal Zones (LECZs) in these countries have higher exposure due to their population densities and vulnerability to multiple climate hazards like sea level rise, land subsidence, typhoons, tsunamis, and water contamination. The LECZs lie below 10 meters above the sea level accounting for 2 percent of the total land area and 11 per cent of the world’s population. Apart from the small island nations, a large share of the population of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) and the Developing Countries, resides in this zone. For example, 40 per cent of the land and 46 per cent of the population in Bangladesh resides in the LECZ.

These countries have low resilience towards gradual and sudden natural disasters, due to their poor coping capacity, under-developed infrastructure, high population densities, and a wide lower socio-economic base population. The people under the poverty line, who are often socio-spatially marginalised, are usually the hardest hit. They inhabit the most vulnerable areas and are excluded from the institutional framework of the state leaving them with minimal access to basic amenities and low coping capacities. These countries juggle the challenges posed by the large population, mammoth scale of development, provision of basic amenities, and the added climate risk.

Complex climate  impact for coastal communities

The coastal communities in the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta are victims of this complex phenomenon. For decades they have been residing in the volatile riverine islands in the delta, devising their own coping mechanisms. They begin with innovative attempts to rebuild their livelihoods by diversifying sources of income or using alternate agricultural and pisciculture practices. Civil society organizations often support these attempts by aiding community action, connecting them to the market, and empowering women with alternate skills. However, the increasing frequency and intensity of disasters force people to undertake migration to safer urban areas in search of alternate and stable livelihoods. The process begins with the emigration of an earning member of the family who is responsible for the post-disaster reconstruction and maintenance of his or her family. However, the increasing climatic stress and its impact on life, assets, and finances as well as the access to better services, ultimately leads to the emigration of the entire family.

This uncontrolled forced emigration from areas under high climatic stress to the fringes of the relatively safer urban areas within the region and at times across country borders as in the case of the India-Bangladesh border which cuts through the evolving Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta. However, this migration transposes them from the rural fringe to the invisible informal margins of the urban. Here too they remain at the forefront of the climate risks faced by the city.

The urbanisation challenge

The impact of this climate migration on the region can be seen in extended urban economic centres like Dhaka and Kolkata. These cities are reeling under the pressure of the rapidly increasing population and struggling to provide basic amenities to all their citizens. The World Bank predicts the climate displacement of over 13 million people in Bangladesh by 2050, further threatening the already saturated city of Dhaka. Both India and Bangladesh have had various approaches to this issue. Multiple in-situ solutions like promoting shrimp farming, employing water purification technologies, women self-help groups, and improving infrastructure, have been deployed in the region. However, the measures have managed to retain communities at source only in the short term.

Meanwhile, new peripheral urban/rurban clusters have evolved to act as transit hubs connecting the remote rural areas to the destination areas, markets, and other services. This presents an opportunity to mould the development of these tertiary cities and towns to absorb the climate migrants. Planned economic development and efficient connectivity will enable these towns to provide employment and offset the pressure on the current cities. Through collaborative local governance and regional economic and livelihood planning, inclusive secondary settlements can be created for the mutual benefit of the host and migrant populations. This approach creates a triple-win situation. First, with livelihood opportunities closer to home, the migrants can retain their cultural identities, and safeguard intangible traditional knowledge and social capital. The strength of the community and the interdependence is known to increase their resilience in times of disaster. Second, the coastal areas will attract development due to their proximity to the new economic centres and the increased need for infrastructure. This can potentially attract more funding, research, and development efforts. Third, polycentric urbanization will reduce the pressure on the major cities, facilitating good governance and improving the quality of life for all.

The port city of Monga, Bangladesh is already testing the ‘migrant-friendly’ city model together with the International Centre for Climate Change and Development. The city is following the institute’s guidelines on infrastructure and economic cluster development. Efficient connectivity will provide the migrants with multiple opportunities and facilitate their development as opposed to their current state of invisibility and desperation. Investigative research, international support, and a collaborative approach to local governance can enable towns and cities in the delta regions to live up to this mammoth restructuring challenge as well as provide a dignified life to these communities.

About the Author

Asmeeta is an urban strategist with a passion for complex strategic thinking across scales and geographies. Trying to bridge the gap between human needs and urban development, her work focuses on innovation through strategy and policy to promote equitable development.

Asmeeta holds an MSc in Architecture and the built environment with specialization in urbanism from Delft University of Technology. She is inclined towards human migration, climate resilience and their impact on urbanisation and governance and to use city and regional planning to facilitate the inclusion of marginalised communities in developing nations.



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