Editor’s Note: Christiana Figueres is the former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (2010-2016). She is now a founding partner at Global Optimism, co-author of The Future We Choose and co-presents the climate podcast, Outrage + Optimism. The views expressed here are her own. Read more opinion at CNN.

CNN  — 

History will remember this decade as the climate turning point, the moment we finally woke up to the fact that despite (and because of) shocks like Covid-19, decarbonization – the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions – is now inevitable. The only question is how fast we will achieve it. I’m reminded of Ernest Hemingway’s book, “The Sun Also Rises,” when his character, Mike Campbell, describes how he went bankrupt: “Two ways. Gradually and then suddenly.”

Christiana Figueres

The “suddenly” part of climate action is at last beginning to blossom, evident in the early unfolding of the most exciting technological and economic transformation of our lifetime. Since 2005, 32 countries, including some developing nations, have successfully grown their economies without growing their emissions.

Meanwhile, thousands of commitments to net-zero emissions have been announced in recent months from governments, companies and financial institutions large and small, putting the Paris Agreement goal to keep temperature rise within 1.5ºC within reach. Even with their varying degrees of robustness, the collective message of these commitments is clear: We’ve crossed a new threshold, there’s no going back to a high-emissions trajectory.

The challenge for global leaders now is to not get stuck. It’s no longer practical to play both sides: putting one foot in the net-zero future while keeping the other in a high carbon past. It’s a contortionism that can only end in the middle splits – a very difficult position from which to move forward.

The US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change, John Kerry, has recently visited Asia, meeting with representatives of the Indian, Chinese and South Korean governments to encourage their leadership in the net-zero future ahead of President Joe Biden’s climate summit this week. This outreach recognizes the role of partnership and cooperation on climate as being in everyone’s self-interest: It’s much easier for all of us to move forward quickly when others are going in that direction too. And move we must, decisively, today, with action to safeguard our climate. When the US economy sets a target of 50-52% emissions reductions from 2005 levels by 2030 it is not only transformational for the citizens of that country, it is influential on all other economies, small and large.

When a government commits significant investments in favor of, for example, renewables, but continues to fund coal-fired power at home and abroad, I call that the decarbonization splits. When a company focuses on emissions reductions from energy use or transport, without also responsibly investing in protecting and restoring nature, that’s just another version of the decarbonization splits. In each case we get stuck, unable to travel in any direction, limiting shared cooperation for green growth.

Inevitably, it’s people who feel the pain. It’s no wonder so many among us don’t feel hopeful when we look into the future and see a climate-changed world. Climate impacts are already reaching worst-case scenario levels based on scientific predictions from just a few years back. The consequences are devastating lives and shattering livelihoods today. Despite this stark reality, too many of us see leaders apparently stuck in the splits when it comes to climate change.

No leader should have to perform such gymnastics any longer. Capital is already flowing to support the future we need. Yes, to date this has been a gradual flow, but it’s quickly accelerating and will no doubt enter the “suddenly” phase soon! BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has famously described the shift as tectonic, a fundamental reallocation of capital.

When I took the job to lead the global climate negotiations ahead of what was to become the Paris Agreement, few people were hopeful that we could secure a global deal on climate. I was one of them. I even blurted out at my first press conference that I did not think we would achieve such a deal in my lifetime. But the moment those words left my mouth, I realized that if I fully committed to the opportunity that lay within the challenge others may join me – and we could (and did) in fact achieve it.

It’s this full commitment to move forward into the future that we need to bring to life now, just as the stakes are at their highest and the hour is late. The evidence base is undeniable – climate action is exactly how we will create the good jobs, better cities, cleaner air and more sustainable food supply urgently needed to improve human, economic and planetary health.

This is the moment for stubborn optimism – the necessary mindset when embarking on any momentous task. And the good news is that we have an extraordinary wind at our backs. Recent developments show the momentum for change is far stronger than anything we had ahead of the Paris Agreement.

Anyone who’s sailed on the ocean will know that when one is traveling in the same direction as the wind, and at the same speed as the wind, a physical deception comes into play: It can feel as if there’s no wind at all and that you’re traveling quite slowly, when in fact you may be going the fastest your boat will ever go.

Get our free weekly newsletter

  • Sign up for CNN Opinion’s new newsletter.
  • Join us on Twitter and Facebook

    I urge world leaders attending the virtual Biden climate summit to turn around just for a moment and feel the full force of the winds of change behind us: harness it, move forward, accelerate! The time for gymnastics is done – let’s get everyone’s feet firmly into the future and show what’s possible when we put our minds to it.

    This article has been updated with a comment on the newly announced US emissions reduction target.