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John F. Kerry Urges MIT Audience To Lead The Way To A Clean Energy Future

John F. Kerry John F. Kerry

“No nation will do well sitting on the sidelines choking on the fumes generated by obsolete technologies,” says the former secretary of state.

In January, with his days in office waning, U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry appealed to the scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs in the MIT community to aggressively pursue solutions to climate change.

Kerry spoke to an audience of approximately 200 people at the MIT Samberg Conference Center January 20, urging his listeners to work quickly to solve the climate change dilemma regardless of the changing presidential administration.

“The truth is, climate change should not be a partisan issue,” Kerry said, noting that glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate, and sea levels are rising three times faster than they did last century. The past year was the hottest year on record.

Crediting progress at the state and local levels around the country, Kerry applauded his home state of Massachusetts, which has solar installations in 350 of its 351 towns. Since 2011, the state’s Clean Energy Results Program has advanced environmental protection by developing and promoting renewable energy goals.

Boston will host the third annual U.S.-China Climate Leaders Summit this year. Kerry emphasized that local efforts, including those by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who was in the audience, will be essential for future progress.

While Kerry said the Paris Agreement, a deal to limit the rise in global temperature reached by 195 countries in 2015, will not be enough to stop climate change on its own, he called it a “clear signal” to the marketplace about the future of energy.

Kerry said that over the last decade, the global energy renewables market has expanded dramatically, and investments in renewable energy reached nearly $350 billion. He cited President Barack Obama’s efforts and said Congress collaborated in an “unusual bipartisan fashion” on tax credits for renewable energy. In 2016, U.S. investment in renewable power generation totaled nearly $33 billion.

Kerry predicted job growth in the clean energy sector would be driven by global market demand, saying that the energy curve is “bending toward sustainability.”

“It’s not a question of whether we will transition to a new economy. We will,” Kerry said. “The question is whether we can accelerate the transition. No nation will do well sitting on the sidelines choking on the fumes generated by obsolete technologies,” he said.