Sustainable Energy

Clean energy a great opportunity: Kerry

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Fadel Senna | AFP | Getty Images

The consequences of failing to harness renewable energy sources such as the sun will be "devastating," according to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

"It took us decades to understand that what can seem like the cheapest sources of energy in the short term actually … (have) insurmountable costs in the long term," Kerry, speaking at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit in New York, said on Tuesday.

In his speech, Kerry added that clean energy was "one of the greatest economic opportunities the world has ever seen" and described carbon intensive energy as "one of the costliest investments that any civilization could choose to make."

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Kerry's speech also referenced the landmark COP21 Summit in Paris, where 195 countries agreed to make sure global warming stayed "well below" 2 degrees Celsius and to "pursue efforts" to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"Every country in Paris acted with the conviction … that if we make the changes necessary to combat climate change we will also unlock a global marketplace for clean energy the size of which the world has never seen before," he said.

"The market today that we're talking about is a multitrillion dollar market already with about 5 billion users, and it can go up to 9 billion if people are correct about population growth," Kerry went on to add. "This is a multitrillion dollar market with billions of users worldwide."

Investment in renewables does seem to be increasing across the board. A recent report from Clean Energy Canada found that global investments in clean energy hit $367 billion last year, beating expectations.

2015 saw the U.S. solar industry install 7,286 megawatts of solar power, according to data from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), while offshore wind investments in Europe doubled, according to the European Wind Energy Association.

In his closing remarks, Kerry stated that the transition to a low-carbon economy was "in full swing" and that the whole planet had an interest in ensuring that it took place as quickly as possible.

"Like Edison with his light bulb, Marconi with his radio, Bell with his telephone, the Wright Brothers with their flying machine, we have an opportunity to transform the way people live – and in doing so, a more important task, which is to safeguard the future for generations to come," he said.