John Kerry Says Trump Put Global Climate Efforts on a “Bleak Pathway”

Former Secretary of State John Kerry said at the TIME100 Summit Wednesday that moving the world away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources 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,” according to Kerry, who was named the first Presidential climate envoy by Biden in 2021, and spoke onstage with TIME senior correspondent Justin Worland.

At COP26 in 2021, nearly 200 countries agreed to transition away from fossil fuels to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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

While Kerry expressed caution over Trump’s potential return to office, he was far more optimistic about 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 by technology companies to develop AI was leading to a boom in data centers that require 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 TIME 100 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, 68th Secretary of State John Kerry, actor Jane Fonda, and many more.

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