John Kerry: Trump Put U.S. Climate Agenda on 'Bleak Pathway'

Former Secretary of State John Kerry said at the TIME100 Summit Wednesday that the effort to ween the world off fossil fuels is in a “profoundly” better place now than it was three years ago under Donald Trump.

President Biden’s predecessor put the climate agenda on a “bleak pathway,” says Kerry, who was named the first Presidential climate envoy by Biden in 2021, and spoke onstage with TIME senior correspondent Justin Worland.

At COP28, the UN Climate Change conference held in Dubai in December, nearly 200 countries agreed to move away from fossil fuels to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“The only issue is will it happen fast enough that we avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis; rich nations will muddle through it, it’s the poorest people on the planet that are going to be decimated,” says Kerry. He pointed to extreme heat in Africa, the implosion of food capacity, the scarcity of water all creating climate refugees. “We are heading in a very dangerous direction but we can win this battle,” he says.

While Kerry expressed wariness over Trump’s potential return to office, he was far more bullish on the amount of investment underway to make an energy transition happen.

“We have about $1.8 trillion now in the market invested,” Kerry said, adding that that number needs to get closer to $5 trillion. “There are plenty of entities in the world that have big money.”

Kerry also pointed out that the rush to develop AI by technology companies was leading to a boom in data centers that need a “massive amount of energy to run.”

“We want to do that but we need to produce that energy,” Kerry said. “Where’s it going to come from? We’re not deploying renewables fast enough to do that.” He pointed to the potential of wind, solar, hydrogen and nuclear energy as potential solutions: “One of them is going to win.”

The TIME100 Summit convenes leaders from the global TIME100 community to spotlight solutions and encourage action toward a better world. This year’s summit features a variety of speakers across a diverse range of sectors, including politics, business, health and science, culture, and more.

Speakers for the 2024 TIME100 Summit include actor Elliot Page, designer Tory Burch, Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad, WNBA champion A'ja Wilson, author Margaret Atwood, NYSE president Lynn Martin, comedian Alex Edelman, professor Yoshua Bengio, actor Jane Fonda, and many more.

The TIME100 Summit was presented by, Citi, Merck, Northern Data Group, Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky, and Verizon.

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