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Georgetown Co-Hosts Sec. Kerry’s Climate, Clean Energy Investment Forum

October 20, 2015 – Secretary of State John Kerry and President John J. DeGioia talked about climate change and clean energy investment this morning at the State Department as part of Kerry’s two-day Climate and Clean Energy Investment Forum

“With every passing day it is actually getting more urgent that we get the job done and we have to reach an agreement in Paris that will serve as the foundation for low-carbon, climate-resilient future worldwide,” said Kerry, noting that the negative effects of climate change are getting increasingly clear. “But the road through Paris is paved with investment decisions that you’re going to make not tomorrow, but today.”

Co-sponsored with Georgetown and Google, the forum takes place at the State Department today, with tomorrow’s sessions hosted at the university’s McDonough School of Business, where U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz will address forum participants.

Andrea Mitchell, Secretary of State John Kerry and Georgetown President John J. DeGioia participate in panel discussion onstage.

NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell asks Secretary of State John Kerry and Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, far right, about issues related to climate change and clean energy during the morning panel discussion.

Pope Francis Factor

About 400 representatives of universities, philanthropic organizations and banks as well as investors and entrepreneurs are attending the forum, a key event leading up to the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 United Nations Framework on Convention on Climate Change in Paris.

DeGioia and Kerry were joined for the morning session by Jeremy Grantham, co-chair of the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment and co-founder of GMO, LCC, with Andrea Mitchell, NBC News’ chief foreign affairs correspondent, moderating the conversation.

Mitchell asked DeGioia about the effect Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States has had on Georgetown, in light of the pope’s encyclical on climate change and the environment.

“The Holy Father has provided us with extraordinary inspiration,” DeGioia said.

University Contributions

The university president noted that while the “great strength” of universities is disciplinary knowledge, challenges such as climate change require integration of those disciplines.

“What we’ve tried to do with the Georgetown Environment Initiative … is harness the power of the whole institution,” DeGioia said, “to look at the integration of policy, law, business, science and try to make the kinds of contributions that universities can make to this dialog.”

The Georgetown Environment Initiative, which co-sponsored the event, is a multicampus effort to advance the interdisciplinary study of the environment in relation to society, scientific understanding, policy, and global challenges.

Absolutely Astounded

The moderator asked Kerry how the country could fight climate change with gridlock in Congress and many Republican congress members and presidential candidates denying that climate change even exists.

“When I hear a senator say, ‘I’m not a scientist so I can’t make a judgment,’ or a candidate for president for that matter, I’m absolutely astounded,” Kerry said. “… When you have more than 6,000 plus peer-reviewed studies of the world’s best scientists all lay out that this is happening and mankind is contributing to it, it seems to me that they disqualify themselves fundamentally from high public office with those kinds of statements.”

He noted that most educated non-scientists accept scientific facts every day – such as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.

Scholarly Input

The forum is being livestreamed today by the State Department and by Georgetown on Oct. 21.

Georgetown scholars taking part in the forum include Joanna Lewis, an associate professor at the School of Foreign Service, and Francis Slakey, co-director of the university’s Program on Science in the Public Interest.

“Leveraging finance for clean energy is a key part of the global transition to a low carbon economy and to achieving an ambitious agreement in Paris,” says Lewis, who researches energy and climate change issues in China. “The Secretary's Forum brings together key stakeholders to discuss innovative financing mechanisms and new models of public-private cooperation. It also provides a great opportunity for Georgetown to highlight the innovative research its faculty and students are doing to promote clean energy around the world.”

Social Enterprise

Another forum sponsor, McDonough’s Global Social Enterprise Initiative, partners with companies, nonprofits and government to drive collective solution development and encourage impact investments that tackle major global and local challenges such climate change mitigation. “Climate change is one of the defining challenges facing our global society,” says McDonough School Dean David Thomas. “Convening investors, industry executives, policymakers and thought leaders to collectively respond with solutions goes to the heart of our commitment at Georgetown McDonough – to be in service to business and society.”

Engaging Sustainability

The university is committed to engaging sustainability and clean energy issues, creating real-world solutions and using the campus as a living laboratory to develop a long-term strategy.

Georgetown is working to reduce its carbon footprint, and recently discontinued direct investments of endowment funds in companies whose principal business is mining coal for use in energy production.

On a national level, Georgetown’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation helped the White House and the Department of Energy (DOE) raise $4 billion that will be invested directly into clean energy solutions and companies.

Several world leaders also have spoken at Georgetown on the topic, including a major speech on climate change by President Obama in 2013, and an address by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim earlier this year. Then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu addressed America's role in curbing climate change at Georgetown in 2010.

Environment and Energy

Scholars at the university are working on different aspects of climate change, including research at the Georgetown Climate Center and the more than 50 faculty members across 18 departments associated with the Georgetown Environment Initiative, established in 2012.

The campus is also home to the Georgetown University Energy Prize, which will reward a community with a population between 5,000 and 250,000 with $5 million in 2017 to support sustainable energy-saving innovations.