Re-election of Trump would not derail clean energy revolution, John Kerry says

Marketplace has made its decision and ‘no individual politician’ can change the world’s course, US climate envoy says

The world is undergoing a clean energy revolution on such a scale that not even the re-election of Donald Trump could stop renewable energy deployment, US special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry has said.

“This revolution is happening ... notwithstanding the hiccup of the farmers’ strikes or a president of a country who wants to pull out of the Paris agreement,” he told an International Energy Agency ministerial gathering on Tuesday.

His comments were made in Paris at a meeting marking the 50th anniversary of the agency, which has shifted from an initial mission of ensuring the security of oil supplies to increasingly championing renewables and reducing planet-warming emissions from fossil fuel use.

While the world was close to physical tipping points with catastrophic climate impacts if it did not respond fast enough, Mr Kerry said “we’re also approaching the potential of a clean energy tipping point”.


The marketplace had made its decision in shifting away from fossil fuels, he added. “But no matter who, no individual politician, no finance minister, no prime minister, no monarch can change the course the world is on. This transition has to happen because Mother Nature is making it very clear to us what the choices are ... The question is will we do what the science has told us?”

Despite his optimism on global renewable technology, Mr Kerry acknowledged that a reversal in US climate policy under a new administration would still have negative global effects. Technology available today would, he said, at best achieve a 43 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.

“The problem is frankly, there is just plain old, too much business as usual. And I think everybody knows that.”

He said with farmers rebelling in Europe, “and people are looking at the energy revolution that we’re at the cusp of, and blaming it for other impacts in their lives, our politics is now more complicated”.

Mr Kerry said it was important “to underscore the choices that we are now making in order to try to turn things around”. He said contrary to the naysayers, clean energy choices would not make people worse off, rather it would bring large economic opportunity.

IEA director Fatih Birol said the world needed to ensure a large expansion of clean technologies that are commercial viable by 2030, including renewables, heat pumps, EVs, energy efficiency and – in some countries – nuclear power.

But he said that would be insufficient to keep global temperature rise to within 1.5 degrees or achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. “We need to push technologies that are not commercially in the market here yet but under construction to be part of our energy mix around 2030 ... the magic word is innovation.”

Clean energy was moving faster than many realised and leading to reduced fossil fuel demands. Fossil fuels may well peak before the end of this decade – a scenario that some oil and gas companies were agreeing with, he noted.

The world’s biggest security challenge comes within the wider context of the climate crisis, said Minister for Climate and Energy Eamon Ryan, who is co-chairing the event.

He said the Cop28 decision to transition away from fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives and to provide the finance, expertise, science and learning to be able to do that “gives us security today, more than anything else”.

The scale of change and ambition required over the next 20 years needed every sector to ask how it could be done, the Gree Party leader said. Critical to this, he added, was innovation that would deliver this rapid transition, ranging across production of steel or cement, developing floating offshore wind technology, to deploying capture carbon and storage in a safe way.

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Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times