Seva Karpauskaite: Time to Accelerate Innovation & Action

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As this year’s winner of Masdar’s Engage Global Competition, I am excited to have this unique opportunity to attend the largest gathering on sustainability in the Middle East as a guest blogger and social media influencer. During Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), I look forward to participating in and covering a series of exciting events, exhibitions and conferences, including the Global Action Day, the World Future Energy Summit, the International Water Summit and, of course, a visit to Masdar City. [Full disclosure: This post has been generously supported by Masdar.]

I entered the contest because I am passionate about sustainability and climate. I come from a small country, Lithuania, that is vulnerable to climate change’s impacts. After I finish my master’s, my goal is to become an advocate for sustainable development and environmental protection by making the business case for clean technologies. Studying Energy, Resources and Environment at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University has enabled me to hone my theoretical knowledge on diverse energy and environmental issues. To that end, diving into ADSW will integrate me within the global community as it debates and addresses the most pressing issues related to climate change, at a time of uncertainty in the global energy landscape.

Here are the facts: there are two certainties regarding the phenomenon of climate change. First, the science makes clear that it has already started – and, indeed, it is mind-boggling. One of my goals during ADSW is to highlight the borderless and multidimensional nature of this complex issue. I strongly believe that all of us need to reframe and broaden our understanding of climate change.

While we can clearly grasp the science behind global warming, I cannot emphasize enough that it is also a global security threat, exacerbates inequality and also is detrimental to sustainable development.

So let’s pursue a two-pronged approach: innovation and action. The development and deployment of the physical capital based on scientific research and technological innovation is crucial. So is the growth of social capital, catalyzed by reaching a global consensus that can be transformed into collective action.

We already see encouraging signs that community building is underway. For example, Masdar’s Gen Z sustainability survey revealed that young people see climate change as the biggest threat to the world over the next 10 years and that they seek to be proactive in ensuring a more sustainable future. The next step is engagement: channeling their passion for activism into opportunities to advance sustainable development. ADSW events like the Student Exclusiveoffer a platform for such youth-industry cooperation, so I am keen to meet youth from the UAE and worldwide who are also passionate about the issue.

Greater awareness is the crucial next step. The fact is that global leaders and institutions have historically focused their work on climate science and economics. Consequentially, we have significantly advanced in our technical ability to address sustainability issues. In some parts of the world, including the UAE, solar is price-competitive with electricity from conventional sources; cities are implementing smart & sustainable solutions to boost their infrastructure; clean technology R&D is creating new business opportunities for start-ups and corporates alike. Nevertheless, the world must accelerate implementation of renewable and sustainable technologies. We must find new ways to narrow this chasm between ability and action to shape and spread knowledge of sustainability issues that engage and empower.

Women represent one of the key stakeholders that exemplify the need for a more nuanced understanding of global warming. We are greatly underrepresented in climate change science, negotiations, policy-making and adaptation efforts. Yet women, especially poor women, are also disproportionately affected by climate change. Strengthening our capacity to deal with climate change relies on grasping the intersection between gender and climate change. We must acknowledge the impact that global warming has on women, and strive to inspire them to become powerful agents whose knowledge, innovation and skills play a bigger role in the climate change crisis. That’s why I’m keen to attend and report from the Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy (WiSER) event at ADSW.

I’m grateful to be included within this week-long conversation, which promotes cooperation and innovation as the next ten years are crucial to harness climate change risks and transform them into opportunities. I am thrilled to be part of the dialogue and cooperation that sparks the development of the financial and social capital necessary as we shift towards a more sustainable world. Follow me on Instagram, and Snapchat for daily musings, happenings and snapshots from ADSW 2017! Also, track my journey with the hashtags #WorldIn2026 and #ADSW2017.

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