John Kerry: Capitalism, not government, is likely to lead transition to green economy

Some governments, including here in Massachusetts, continue to consider a range of options to accelerate the deployment of green technologies and move away from the carbon production that fuels global warming. And while Kerry said he sees elected officials playing an important role, he stressed that the private sector can have a “much more powerful” impact.

“I don’t believe any politician can take back what’s happening right now. I think the market has seized on that,” Kerry said at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology event. “When you have a trillion dollars in venture capital for battery storage or green hydrogen or electrolysers or carbon capture or utilization, there’s money to be made in that.”

The longtime US senator from Massachusetts, who is now the US presidential special envoy for the climate, expressed a combination of concern and optimism about the global outlook during a “conversation on the corner Fire” live with MIT President Rafael Reif.

“Climate change has been called a ‘super nasty’ problem. In Boston, that might sound like a local way of saying ‘really tough,’ but that phrase is actually a technical term,” Reif said. “It describes any extremely complex societal problem that has no single right answer or clear end line, as well as multiple stakeholders with conflicting priorities and no central authority empowered to solve it.”

Leaders will need to simultaneously accelerate the deployment of existing tools and accelerate the development of new options to reduce carbon emissions to limit the planet’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, Kerry said.

Kerry said he remains concerned about the gap between current capacity and what the world will need in the coming years of its response, even if it achieves net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“We have the technology we need now to do what we need to do by 2030, but we don’t have the technology we need to ensure we can get to net zero by 2050 and do what what we have to do next. that,” Kerry said. “Even if we get to net zero by 2050, if you want an awesome problem, we need to remove about 1.9 trillion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere and figure out what we’re going to do with it and where we’re going. put it.

Massachusetts lawmakers enshrined a goal of net zero by 2050 into law last year, and debate continues over additional policy changes and spending options to force the large-scale abandonment of energy sources. polluting emissions.

The Bay State is poised to be the epicenter of the booming offshore wind industry, and Kerry said the prospect of rapid growth, new jobs and profits will play a big role in achieving economy-wide change towards a green future.

“It’s going to happen, in my opinion, and one of the reasons is good old capitalism,” Kerry said. “People are going to see that they can make money doing this and the market is going to move.”

He called it “essential” that Congress enact a climate bill this year, arguing that allocating about $500 billion to the response to the climate crisis “would really be a boost.”

And while he stressed the importance of government leadership and incentives, Kerry said he believed the public sector lacked the financial muscle it would need to succeed without buy-in from the private sector.

“What keeps me excited and the reason I keep going is we can do this. We can win this battle, actually,” Kerry said. “But there has to be a massive change in behavior. and a change in capital allocation. I think the market has a better chance of inducing this change than the government, in the absence perhaps of a tool that the government could put in place quickly. These would be investment tax credits and production tax credits.

Pointing to International Energy Agency projections, Kerry said the pace of change so far has been much slower than needed to cut coal power, expand renewables and put electric cars on the road. the road.

“We must mobilize as if we were at war,” said Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004.

The biggest obstacles along the way, in Kerry’s mind, are familiar: politics and those who appreciate the status quo, factors that have left him “frustrated and exasperated.”

Without directly naming Republicans, the Massachusetts Democrat lamented the “very, very difficult situation in our country today where an entire party has decided that the concept of climate response is toxic.”

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