Remarks at the Climate and Clean Energy Investment Forum

Remarks by John Kerry – Secretary of State
Loy Henderson Auditorium – Washington, DC

Secretary Kerry
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the opening session of the Climate and Clean Energy Investment Forum at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on October 20, 2015.

SECRETARY KERRY: Drew, thank you very, very much. Good morning everybody. Welcome to the State Department. And Drew, thanks so much for not just great leadership, but for years of friendship. Drew was really the surrogate senator for the state of Massachusetts for a period of time. He was my director up there in the state and did an absolutely magnificent job. John, Jeremy, Andrea, thank you so much for being here and helping us kick off this forum. Thank you all for being here. It wouldn’t be a forum without all of you here. And I am particularly grateful for your joining us this week.

So let me build off that very generous introduction and put it to everybody pretty simply: There is no doubt in my mind that how we confront climate change will be certainly one of two of the defining issues of our generation and perhaps the defining issue of our generation, because of the stakes – the other being the rise of radical extremism, sectarianism, and the failure of states simultaneously surrounding it, and vast populations of young people needing jobs instead of mind-bending theories of false assumptions about Islam and other things.

Both are gigantic challenges. But thankfully, the solution to this particular challenge, climate change, is actually just as simple as the realization that it is the challenge that it is. And as I have said countless times, including this past weekend when I had the privilege of speaking at the Milan Expo about the connections between climate change and food security and global security writ large, the solution to climate change is not generations away. It is not that difficult to comprehend. It is not a mystery waiting to be solved. It is, put quite simply, energy policy – clean energy choices. And it’s staring us in the face. The opportunities are there. Many of the solutions are already developed. And as all of you know, as capital moves in those directions and as the economics begin to change, everybody else will begin to make a different set of choices.

That’s precisely why we have invited you all here today. It’s why I’m really delighted to see such an extraordinary group – and you are extraordinary because you already get it, and you’re already acting on it. And so we have investment leaders here today, representing trillions of dollars of assets under management, focused not on abstract discussions, but on real, tangible initiatives that will actually bring about a clean and sustainable future.

Now, I am well aware that I am speaking to an audience of experts. None of you need to be converted, and none of you, I am sure, probably need to be exhorted, though exhort you I will. Particularly if you’ve been working in this space, you know that achieving a global agreement on climate change at the Paris conference this December is an absolutely critical step and a major priority of President Obama, myself, and the rest of the Administration. But we also know that even the kind of ambitious and durable and inclusive agreement with all of the advances that we have made since I first went to China two years ago to begin the negotiation with them to try to change what prompted the failure in Copenhagen, which was this great divergence between developed and developing countries – since then we have made, actually, enormous progress. And yet we know, even going into Paris, it will not get the job done.

So it’s becoming even more clear with every record-breaking drought, every record-breaking flood, every hottest month ever announcement, or every year – hottest year that we live through, with every peer-reviewed study that details the catastrophe that climate change could unleash and, frankly, that we’re seeing already in certain places. The canary in the gold mine – in the coal mine indicators, which are many in various parts of the world, particularly the Arctic, Antarctic, and in some other places – they all begin to detail the catastrophe that climate change has the potential to unleash. And 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 a low-carbon, climate-resilient future worldwide. But the road through Paris is paved with investment decisions that you’re going to make not tomorrow, but today – not in December, but in the next weeks, hopefully – and in the projects that we are working on and building together.

Now, decades of science tell us that unless we make that transition, we are facing irreversible impacts to infrastructure, food production, water supply, sea level, ecosystems, and potentially to human life itself on this planet. And the wakeup call is not new. Year after year, the science has been screaming at us. And as time goes on, we are seeing the warning cries of climate change, frankly, rising all over the world. The past decade was the hottest on record; the one before that, the second-hottest on record; the one before that, the third-hottest on record. Nineteen of the 20 hottest years in history have occurred in the past two decades.

So the warning isn’t new, but I’ll tell you this: The alarm bells are getting louder. Now someone who is younger than 29 years old today – 29 or younger – has not lived through a single month cooler than its 20th century average. And the good news is that even as we get a better and better understanding of the dangers of our carbon-based economy, we are also getting a better understanding of the many, many ways that we can improve the way that we power our world.

So, my friends, the opportunities really are endless. I was in Spain yesterday, and I met a young man who has designed a smart heating system. I went to the Google center there, and on the first floor, it’s open to the public and they had some demos of various entrepreneurs who are young kids starting up incredible things. And one of them had a smart heating system and it’s based on intelligent tiles that help users create heating zones to help target energy use so that ultimately less energy is required to help people stay warm in cold weather. Pretty simple concept. There are lots of other variations of that in various ways that are out there and beginning to emerge, but in the age of the smartphone when we can do this remotely and find and track what’s happening, we have incredible means of providing efficiencies. And efficiency, as we all know, is one of the lowest-hanging fruits – grab, easy. And there are many places where they haven’t even begun to reach for the low-hanging fruit.

So you could control this particular system from your iPhone and remote, but it’s the kind of innovative thinking that we need to see take root in every corner of the globe. It is the future, and it’ll take the investments at all stages – from venture capitalists to pension funds, from project developers to green bonds – to begin to make it happen. Everybody here has a role to play in accelerating this movement towards the low-carbon economy. And the real kicker is – and I think most of you know this, but I’m going to say it anyway for the benefit of folks tuning into this – that the real kicker is that innovations in clean energy and energy efficiency, they don’t just stave off the worst impacts of climate change. They’re also going to grow our economies, and they’re going to employ our communities. And I don’t have to explain to anybody here how big an opportunity that is.

I can – for 28 years I served in the Senate, and it was rare that you got a really great plus back – positive return on a particular vote or choice that you made. If it was one for one, you were doing pretty well. Climate change is, what, four, five, six for one, because you get better health, better economy, better security, better environmental responsibility, better – a reduction of costs in hospitals. Run the list. The cost accounting here is really pretty simple, and it’s pretty extraordinary to me that we haven’t had more smart graduates of various business schools around the country who are leading corporations around America and the world who haven’t raised the profile of this need to really account for things more correctly. Because everybody says, “Oh my God, we can’t do that; it’s too expensive.” Well, it’s not, if you consider the costs of not doing it.

The cost accounting is pretty simple. On one side of the ledger, you have the cost of inaction, and most people don’t ever file that cost. Then you have the cost of unimaginable environmental and agricultural degradation, of hospital bills for asthma – biggest single cause of children in America being hospitalized in the course of the summer is environmentally induced asthma, and it costs us billions of dollars. We have millions of deaths linked to air pollution caused by the fossil fuels that we burn and the particulates that are in the atmosphere, and the cost of rebuilding after devastating storms and flooding. Last year in the United States, there were eight separate weather events in which the cost for those eight alone exceeded a billion dollars. And globally, I guarantee you, we spent well more than $100 billion and we’re struggling to put together $100 billion for annual expenditure in order to deal with mitigation and other things to bring less-developed countries to the table. Shame on us.

You all have an ability, actually, to impact that with the leveraging and choices you make with respect to your investments. So that’s just the first page of the ledger. The list goes on and on – and infrastructure maintenance in the face of rising seas, stronger storms, power outages, labor productivity losses due to extreme heat – all of that, not to mention the extraordinary cost of insurance losses. The insurance business is already ready to sign up increasingly across the world. So all of that has to be added to the cost of the wait-and-see approach of climate change.

And compare all of that to the upsides: a multitrillion-dollar market that has the potential to create millions of jobs, making people healthier, communities safer, ecosystems cleaner, and the world more secure. What’s that worth? This is not a very complicated balance sheet, and the bottom line is really crystal clear. And thankfully, more and more business leaders are coming to exactly that conclusion.

Google, as cosponsor of this forum, is today announcing its investment in the Lake Turkana wind project in Kenya. This investment will bring 310 megawatts of cheap, clean, and renewable energy into Kenya’s grid. And once constructed, it will be the biggest windfarm in all of Africa and the single-largest private sector investment in Kenya’s history.

At the White House Clean Energy Investment Summit last June, a consortium of long-term investors committed to build a new multibillion-dollar intermediary that will identify, screen, and assess companies and projects for the commercial investment that also produce impactful and profitable solutions to climate change. And that consortium will officially launch today as Aligned Intermediary, or AI. And later this afternoon, you’ll hear from its cofounder and CEO, Peter Davidson, who will discuss the extraordinary investment capital commitments that AI has already received, and introduce the members of the advisory board who have helped deliver this remarkable commitment of capital for AI’s work.

Now, OPIC signed a new agreement to provide up to 400 million in financing for the Redstone concentrated solar power project in Northern Cape, South Africa, and a large-scale – there’s a solar facility being developed by SolarReserve, an American company, and ACWA Power, which is a Saudi firm.

Now, I know many of you here today are pursuing similar investments, and I really couldn’t be more grateful. And I say that less as a Secretary of State and more as a parent and grandparent, because these are the kinds of projects that are going to help the world transition to a low-carbon economy. They’re the kinds of the projects that will help us honor our responsibility to future generations. They’re the kind of projects that literally can save the world. And the State Department, Georgetown, and Google came together to convene this conference in the hopes that the connections you make over the next wo days – the discussions that you’ll have, the opportunities that you’ll discover – will unleash a wave of new interest and new investment and new innovation in the technologies and adaptation strategies that will change the energy game.

And we also hope we can diversify the flows of public and private climate finance. And today 90 percent of private climate finance is invested into projects in the same country from which the money originated. We need to develop better pathways to sustainable development into new and emerging markets, and we can’t solve climate change at home if you ignore what is happening abroad, because increasingly, it is developing countries that are coming online, and unfortunately, too many of them forced into a coal-fired power plant without any remediation whatsoever. And obviously, that’s a disaster.

So our goal is to find ways to accelerate collaboration across borders and sectors. And I assure you, we in this Administration want to help move you forward, not hold you back, not stand in your way. And this afternoon at lunch you’re going to hear from a few programs that the – that we have designed to facilitate more private investment in to climate and clean energy projects in emerging markets. For example, today we are launching the Clean Energy Finance Facility for the Caribbean and Central America, which was an initiative first unveiled by President Obama last April. And we know that our neighbors in the Caribbean and Central America have abundant renewable energy resources, and yet they suffer from electricity shortages and high prices. In Jamaica, a kilowatt-hour costs nearly four times as much as in the U.S., and this program is going to provide early-stage funding, including $10 million in its first year alone to clean energy projects, to help catalyze greater public and private sector investment that will make all the difference.

Tomorrow you’ll hear from my friend and colleague, Ernie Moniz, Secretary of Energy, over at Georgetown University, our generous cosponsors for this forum. And thank you, Jack, very much for that. Ernie will discuss the steps his department is taking to commercialize new clean energy technologies and help achieve our climate goals. In December, Ernie and I are going to join representatives from around the world in Paris. I think the longest that any Secretary of State has ever been out of country in one place was my vacation in Vienna with the Iranians – (laughter) – the 19-plus days that I was there; but next to that, I will be in Paris from almost November 30th through the end in order to try to help make sure we can achieve what we want to and close an ambitious and durable climate agreement.

So let no one doubt that a global agreement is an essential part of this. But ultimately, my friends, I’ve got to tell you: Because of the problem – and by the way, even as federal governments in many cases may be restrained, we’re our own worst enemy in many ways. We have politicians today who refuse to utter the words climate change, let alone do something to address it. But thankfully President Obama and many of his counterparts view things differently, and they’re joined by entrepreneurs, scientists, activists, others.

We just had an event here a week or so ago with Mike Bloomberg in which we brought mayors from around the world, and mayors are beginning to do things at local levels, getting way ahead of the federal governments. Grassroots may be the saving grace, and you are grassroots. And if you all make the right set of investments and the market begins to get the message out of Paris, what we have to hope for and, I think, even count on is that there will be a remarkable multiplier effect that comes from the signal sent that more than 150 nations have now signed on with their intended national determined contributions – that is, their reductions. And frankly, I think we can safely say that did come about because we partnered with a less developed country, a giant of one as it is – China – and sent a message: We can no longer afford to play by the same old rules of fighting each other and not all of us collectively becoming part of this solution.

So I thank you profoundly for being part of this forum, and over the next two days I think we can do a lot to help get the job done. Thank you all very much.

(Applause.)

MS MITCHELL: Well, thank you all. Thank you, Mr. Secretary, President DeGioia, Mr. Grantham. It is great for me to be here today.

Mr. Secretary, you said today that the warning isn’t new but the alarm bells are getting louder. How do you tell these investors that we can address the political crisis we have in that you have a Congress that rejected cap and trade in 2010; the President is trying to do what he can by executive action through the EPA, but that is a slower and much more expensive process, and litigious; and at the same time, you have a leading Republican candidate who tweeted out that – on the first day of fall, the first cold weather, that this was proof that we need more global warming?

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s really good science. (Laughter.)

MS MITCHELL: You have Republican candidates —

SECRETARY KERRY: (Inaudible.)

MS MITCHELL: — Republican candidates are not only silent on the subject, they are climate deniers. And even candidates who led the way in 2008, the nominee, is now silent on the subject because of Tea Party challenges to himself and to others.

SECRETARY KERRY: Sure.

MS MITCHELL: In the Democratic Party, you have many labor interests that are pressing also against restrictions on coal and other fossil fuels. So you’ve got gridlock in both parties and an election year where this is not even being discussed.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it will be discussed – I’m confident of that – once we get through the primaries, because I know that whoever it is nominated by the Democratic Party is going to make this a very important part of our choice for the country. But beyond that, I’ve heard this – I mean, I’ve debated it on the floor of the Senate, I’ve heard it, I’ve testified before the environment committee, so I know all their counter-arguments to it.

But when I hear a United States 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. I mean, it’s incomprehensible that a grownup who has been to high school and college in the United States of America disqualifies themselves because they’re not a scientist when they’ve learned that the Earth rotates on its axis but they’re not a scientist; where they’ve learned that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and it does so 24 hours a day; and you can run the list of things that we know science tells us happens, and we accept it every single day. And to suggest that when 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. And I think the American people will decide that this year, because the American people are overwhelmingly in favor of doing something about climate change.

MS MITCHELL: Mr. Grantham, at a time where we are in such a slow-growth economy, where there are warnings – including some of your own – about financial crises to come, how do you persuade investors that this is good business, that this makes economic sense?

MR GRANTHAM: We were talking earlier that the best thing to do in a forum like this is to ignore the question and get to the heart of the matter.

MS MITCHELL: Please do. (Laughter.)

MR GRANTHAM: And I have less career risk than my colleagues sitting with me and probably any of you, and therefore I’m a good person to try and rouse the rabble. Secretary Kerry said that you didn’t need converting, but I wonder if there’s anyone here who feels he couldn’t be a little more outspoken on this issue, which is existential – it will determine the success of our stable society or not. I wonder if there’s anyone here who couldn’t do a better job and speak out a little more.

And let me just give credit to the enemy, the obfuscators. They are much better at speaking out. They have people like Richard Lindzen, the infamous professor at MIT who supported tobacco as doing no harm and now supports fossil fuels as being healthy. We have Viscount Ridley and what I call the looney lords in England who – even yesterday, he had a new article in The Telegraph saying that there was no such thing as carbon dioxide, it was good for you. We have the Koch brothers and the Cato Institutes – they do a very good job at obfuscation. They speak out all the time. And we’re not so good; our climate scientists are too nervous protecting the dignity of the science – we have a Jim Hansen here and somebody over there. But in general, they don’t. I have yet to meet a climate scientist who doesn’t think the situation is much worse than is generally understood and that it’s accelerating. We have politicians – one here, thank heavens, Secretary Kerry, and one there – but in general, much more silent than they need to be.

A quick word on Trudeau: Hallelujah. Canada, who used to be good, was captured by Alberta and the fossil industry, and unexpectedly, the Albertan fossil fuelers were thrown out by liberals and now we have a much greener unexpected prime minister.

We have the odd mayor of great cities here and there. They’re not actually bad at all, but – a Bloomberg here and someone over there – but not enough. The pension plans – no direct ownership yet of wind or solar. Where are they? We have a CalPERS here and someone over there, but not too many. They’re not pulling their weight. Corporate offices – we have a Unilever here and let me think – yes, one or two.

If you get it, you have to state it loudly and clearly and often, or we will fail. University presidents – well, not yet, present company excepted – but we have high hopes that someone soon will get it and speak out and set a good example. We have a Pope here and there – well, there’s only one Pope, but – (laughter) – and thank heavens for Pope Francis. That’s career risk. He knew he was going to get hammered and he still did it. We have a Bank of England governor here and there. I mean, what an achievement that was for him to speak out and say what he did about the climate.

The future for all of us will depend on a few thousand people taking some career risk and putting it on the line and making it clear that they see this as a real crisis – people like you. So that’s my harangue.

MS MITCHELL: President DeGioia, following up on that, we all were inspired by Pope Francis’s visit and his speech and his addressing the climate issue.

MR DEGIOIA: Right.

MS MITCHELL: How does that translate throughout the hierarchy, and also to your students?

MR DEGIOIA: Sure. Sure. In what was the most anticipated encyclical, a circulating letter from the Holy Father, in probably a half a century – and we had been expecting this for more than a year – it did not disappoint. It truly was an extraordinary moment and had served already to inspire us to try to determine how could we as a university community respond differently in this moment.

Over the last couple of years we’ve taken a couple of steps. First and foremost academically, how can we ensure that the resources of a university are able to respond effectively? In our case, there are a lot of players in the field of environmental science. We tried to determine what could a place like Georgetown, the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the United States, with a global network of relations and partners but located here in Washington – what might we be able to do differently. And what we’ve tried to do is harness the power of the disciplines – the great strength of universities is disciplinary knowledge. But the great challenges that we face like climate change require the integration of those disciplines.

So the part of Georgetown that is responsible for co-sponsoring this event, our Social Enterprise Institute, comes out of our business school. From our science departments, from our liberal arts programs, our law school does extraordinary work in addressing issues related to climate change. What we’ve tried to do with the Georgetown Environment Initiative, which came to us through a significant gift from a member of our community, was harness the power of the whole institution to look at the integration of policy, law, business, science, and try to make the kinds of contributions that universities can make to this dialogue.

The Holy Father has provided us with extraordinary inspiration, and any time we get a little bit self-satisfied or complacent, we just have to take a look at that encyclical, and we realize there’s a significant gap between our current reality, the way we’re living, and what he’s – what he is asking us to do.

MS MITCHELL: And please.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I was going to come back to just – almost to your first question a little bit and build in. You say, how do you fight back against these people and what do you do with them? The economic argument is actually the most powerful argument, and it’s one we need to make more. It’s the balance sheet ledger that I just talked about and the plus side. You start defining the plus side here, there really are millions of dollars – I mean, whoever it is who comes up with the cheaper kilowatt-per-hour whizbang whatever it is and – the next new thing – it’s going to be in energy. I mean, this is the largest market in the world, folks, larger even than the market that created great wealth for America in the 1990s. It’s a gigantic market. As it is, we’re going to spending something like $17 trillion in energy over the course of the next 10 years or so, and if we direct it in the right places, then the market – those people looking for investment can bet on the future and begin to bet that their investment will see a greater ROI because you know there are going to be X number of more users and you begin to get your economies of scale in place and you can make it work.

That’s going to happen. I mean, solar, before we saw the cratering of the price of oil, was almost one-for-one and was really making it. The diminishment, obviously, in the cost of oil has, unfortunately, encouraged a lot of people to stave off some of the investments and so forth. That’s where we come in. We need to be helping in various ways. Where OPIC can provide a support structure – and Elizabeth will talk to you about that later – or where we can create some kind of comparative tax, why shouldn’t we? After all, the same fossil fuel incentives that were put in place 40 years ago are still in place. It doesn’t make sense. And if we were to begin to reverse some of those things or push in different directions, we will change the economics. And that’s the best thing to happen of all. It’ll beat all governance. When the marketplace is moving in this direction, no politician will be able to stop that. That’s the secret. That’s why all of you are so important.

MS MITCHELL: And if I could put you on the spot, which I never do, Mr. Secretary, but with the election last night and being the nerd that I am, I was up watching C-SPAN to watch Trudeau’s acceptance speech – victory speech. With a different government up to the north, does that change the equation at all on your decision on Keystone?

SECRETARY KERRY: No. The decision on Keystone is being based on the merits and on the countervailing balance of all the input that has come from a very exhaustive agency review. I have said again and again I want to get that done as fast as possible, and that is very true. I want to get it done.

MS MITCHELL: It is imminent?

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m not going to use the – I’d just – it’ll get done in its appropriate moment, but I would like to see it done as fast as possible.

MS MITCHELL: President DeGioia, you wanted to jump in?

MR DEGIOIA: I did want to come back a little bit on the challenge of the encyclical because there’s another way in which universities have tried to engage these questions, in addition to the academic strength of our institutions. And that is: All of us have tried to address the way in which we actually run our institutions, the way in which we conduct our work. And in 2005, a whole group of universities came together and made a commitment that we would try to reduce our carbon footprint. And for Georgetown we made a commitment that we would try to reduce our carbon footprint by 50 percent by 2020. This was in 2005.

So in early June of this year, we were very pleased that we were at 72 percent, playing by the rules that were put in place in 2005. And I remember I was out in the west and I was being asked on the day in which the encyclical was released to offer some comments on the day it was released. Well, fortunately, the hour’s difference – it was released at noon in Rome and I was a little later. So I’m looking at the encyclical trying to see what could I say about this. And right there was the challenge about using renewable energy credits as a way of reducing you carbon footprint. So we were at 72 percent before I read the encyclical. Then after reading the encyclical we were down below 50 percent – just a little below. Now we’ve got to double our efforts, and we do this by the way in which we manage our energy, how we conduct the business of the university, how we manage our fleets of buses and cars. But the Holy Father’s challenge came right back immediately – no use of renewable energy credits to be able to accomplish our goal of carbon reduction.

MS MITCHELL: Yes, and then we have just a moment left. But let me ask —

MR GRANTHAM: Two very quick points, one on the pipeline. That is not crude that goes down there. It is diluted bitumen. And several years ago there was a leak, a few thousand gallons only went into the Kalamazoo River, and then it was revealed what diluted bitumen does. First of all, in order to get it to flow down the pipeline, they have to mix it with benzene. So the first thing that happens is benzene evaporates; it’s a poisonous brown gas and you have to evacuate everybody or they die. And then, without benzene in, it’s no longer crude oil – it sinks, it’s heavier. Crude oil floats, diluted bitumen sinks to the bottom, rolls along the bottom of the river and ruins it for decades or hundreds of years. And the other quick point was that in our foundation, we have 20 percent impact investing where we go out to make money, but to make money on things like lithium-ion batteries at twice the efficiency, we hope, and solar and wind. You can make very handsome returns and move the dial in – within the context of endowments and foundations.

MS MITCHELL: And let me just – and we only have a moment left – say, Mr. Secretary, as you shuttle around the world – and we are grateful that you’re here for 24 hours before you’re off again – you recently spoke of the role that drought, climate change played in the Syrian refugee crisis, as one of the contributing factors. Clearly, this is a national security crisis, as are all the other issues that you have on your plate. You’re about to head off and will likely end up in the region.

The Israeli-Palestinian feud is escalating by day, by night. Ban Ki-moon issued a video appeal to both sides last night to de-escalate, to show the courage of nonviolence. But this is a situation where you can’t even meet with Netanyahu and Abbas in the same country because of all of the exacerbated tensions. How do you – how does America play a role in mediating this crisis?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, as you know, I mean, I’ve talked to President Abbas and I’ve talked to Prime Minister Netanyahu in the last few days, and we could meet if we chose to. But I think it’s not – that meeting together in the same country is not – this is not the moment, obviously.

But I will be meeting. I’ll be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu either in Germany or in the region, and I will be meeting with President Abbas and meeting with King Abdullah and others. And we will go back to some very basics here with respect to what the expectations are for the Administration and the Haram al-Sharif and the Temple Mount, and hopefully begin to open up enough political space to begin to move on some other areas.

I think we have to have very careful expectations. I think we have to be very aware of the sensitivities that have built up now everywhere, and so we have to move carefully. And I think the United States has a special role to play. We accept that responsibility, I accept it, and I look forward to these meetings as an opportunity to try to pull people back from a precipice and try to move down a road, because everybody understands that in the end, it requires a political solution, it requires two states living side-by-side in peace with two peoples appropriately honored with their countries, and with security. And it takes leadership to get there, so we’re going to do everything in our power to try to see if we can calm things down and find a way forward.

MS MITCHELL: Do they have enough leadership?

SECRETARY KERRY: They have capable leaders, sure they do. They have – I mean, it’s a question of making choices, and if people on the outside support structure of all the neighboring countries are being available to help support a transition. And I think many of those country – I’ve been working with them now for several years – I believe they are prepared to be supportive of leadership that tries to move in a certain direction.

And mind you, at the same time, we have the difficulties of Syria – and I will be meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov and with other engaged countries interested and important countries – and see if we can’t simultaneously try to move that process forward. So I think we’ll have to wait and see. Again, no expectations, but if you’re not talking, if you’re not trying, it’s guaranteed you can’t get there. So we’re going to make our best effort.

MS MITCHELL: Well, you all now know from today’s presentation how hard the Secretary of State works on all of these issues for which he’s being honored tonight as the Diplomat of the Year by Foreign Policy. So congratulations on that —

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.

MS MITCHELL: — and thank you for your service and all of your service. Thank you all for being here.

SECRETARY KERRY: Have a great session. (Applause.)