Peter Thomson, President of the General Assembly, UN (left) along with Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General, IRENArena during the press conference in Abu Dhabi yesterday. Photo Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Ninety per cent of the humanity are not aware of the United Nation’s ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by 193 nations last year to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all, a top UN official told Gulf News here on Sunday.

“You ask your taxi driver or your brother [about it ] and see the answer,” Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly, said on the side-lines of a press conference at seventh assembly of International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

He said only if individuals are aware of SDGs, they can take it up as his or her right and then a responsibility as well. “It is individual’s right and nobody can take away one’s right to development. If you want to make the economy sustainable and competitive in the next ten years, the individuals must see the sustainable development not just their right but as their responsibility, too,” Thomson said.

He told the press conference that he had written to heads of states across the world, asking them to introduce SDGs in school curriculum. “Schools can be agents of change.”

Thomson and Adnan Z. Ameen, director-general of Irena, said 2016 was remarkable with two positive developments — adoption of SDGs by the UN and the Paris Agreement that aims to check climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Ameen said as energy sector was a major contributor to carbon emissions, its transformation to clean energy will help the efforts to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees. With the available technology, it is feasible to double the share of renewables in global energy mix by 2030, the Irena chief said.

Thomson said it was notable that many heads of states and a large number of ministers from across the world attended the Irena assembly.

The three-day assembly, attended by more than 1,000 officials from 150 nations, concluded on Sunday. A report published by Irena highlighted how global investment in renewables had steadily grown for more than a decade, rising from less than $50 billion (Dh183.5 billion) in 2004 to a record $305 billion (Dh1.1 trillion) in 2015.

Solar PV (photovoltaic) will grow the fastest in terms of capacity and output, and new ways to store electricity will be a game changer for growing variable renewable energy generation. Irena estimates that battery storage for electricity could increase from less than 1 GW today to 250 GW by 2030.

Off-grid renewables provide electricity to an estimated 90 million people worldwide, and enable people to climb the energy ladder. They are cost-effective and can be installed in modular fashion, linked to grid extension plans. Irena report described how off-grid solutions could provide modern energy access to hundreds of millions of more people and achieve development goals.

“Achieving universal electricity access by 2030, will require us to boost global power generation — nearly 60 per cent of that will have to come from stand-alone and mini-grid solutions,” Ameen said in the report.

Individual choice crucial for sustainability and prosperity

A top UN official, who has not owned a car for many years, urged the public to make ‘sustainable choices’ in daily life to ensure prosperity for all. “I have not owned a car since 1990s. But I use public transport and walk,” Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly, told a press conference at seventh assembly of International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

“What you [as an individual] do is very important to achieve Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN,” he said.

“How did you come here [the mode of transport and its carbon emission potential]? … by a car or by cycle or by foot? It is an individual choice that will change the world,” Thomson explained.

Although the world nations have adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) last year, not everything is rosy. If the current development model is followed, the global temperature can raise up to three or four degree. Fires and floods will be a daily phenomenon and insurance industry cannot function in that situation. Without insurance, nations cannot function.

To avoid such a situation, individuals have to minimise consumption.

“SDGs are related to production and consumption.” The world population is going to be nine billion.

Individuals reward business. They have to say “I won’t buy your product, if they are not sustainable products,” Thomson said.