Green Cities

John Kerry and Denis Hayes Discuss Energy Future at Greening Embassies Forum

Tuesday’s Greening Embassies Forum at The U.S. Department of State proved we have both great potential and great challenges in creating a sustainable energy future. A collaboration between the D.C. Greening Embassies Forum, Earth Day Network and the U.S. Department of State, the event brought together high-powered, influential energy leaders from all sectors to discuss the issues, share insights and formulate solutions. The event focused on renewable energy and energy-efficient buildings, with a particular emphasis on greening our embassies and consulates around the world. As many speakers noted, our diplomatic facilities overseas say something about our country’s priorities. It’s essential that we put our best foot forward. Opening remarks were made by EDN Board Chair Denis Hayes, father of the modern environmental movement and one of Time Magazine’s “Heroes of the Planet.” Hayes highlighted the potential of green buildings in his remarks and offered the Bullitt Center in Seattle—built by Denis Hayes to be one of the greenest buildings in the world—as an example. In addition to a large solar roof, this building acts like a living organism, responding to the environment around it to maximize energy efficiency. He discussed how today’s technologies can be used to build smarter, more environmentally integrated buildings and improve the efficiency of our current buildings.

The day continued with panel discussions of alternative energy policy and implementation with Jonathan Pershing from the Department of Energy, JC Sandberg from GE and Todd Foley from ACORE. Later on, Denis Hayes and VP of USGBC, Jason Hartke spoke about energy efficiency and sustainable buildings. Carlos Pascual, Special Envoy at the State Department noted that making buildings more efficient is the most cost effective way of reducing CO2 emissions. Other speakers included Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of Management for the US Department of State, and David Turk, an advisor to the Special Envoy for Climate Change. Turk offered up one of the more memorable quotes of the night when he described climate change in 10 words, borrowed from Yale 360: “It’s real. It’s us. It’s bad. Scientists agree. There’s hope.” Senator Jeanne Shaheen also spoke at the event. She updated the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency legislation that she has introduced in Congress.

The day concluded with remarks from Secretary of State John Kerry who used the first Earth Day in 1970 as an example of how a grassroots movement can spark political change. He stated that energy policy is about climate change, it is about economics and it is has enormous market potential, upwards of $17 trillion. We must harness the energy from this event and others like it to push policy forward, share innovative ideas and move our energy economy on a path to sustainability.