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Sustainability Experts Talk International Climate Policy

By Lucas Ward, Contributing Writer

Sustainability experts spoke about challenges in crafting climate policies at an event Tuesday evening.

Rachel Kyte, the CEO of Sustainable Energy for All, gave the keynote speech. Sustainable Energy for All is an initiative launched by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to improve energy access, increase energy efficiency, and promote renewable energy.

Kyte also discussed her work with the World Bank and on the Paris Agreement, the global climate change accord signed last December that will take effect in early November.

The talk was sponsored by the Program on Science, Technology, and Society at the Harvard Kennedy School and was moderated by Kennedy School professor Sheila S. Jasanoff ’64. Part of the program’s lecture series on “Science and Democracy,” Kyte’s talk was the 20th event in the series.

Kyte shared a story about her involvement in the World Bank’s work on sustainable practices and universal sustainable development goals. Kyte served as vice president of the World Bank and as a special envoy for climate change until December 2015.

After Kyte spoke, a panel of speakers discussed their thoughts on her statements, as well as their own work with climate change. Panelists frequently mentioned the promise of the Paris Agreement as well.

Henry Lee ’68, the director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Program at the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, spoke about the need for enthusiastic U.N. leadership to work for energy efficiency.

“It was very interesting to notice how so much of this is bottom-up and how we have switched from Kyoto which was a top-down process,” he said in an interview after the event.

He described Kyte as “one of the more enlightened, thoughtful individuals who are working on [implementing the Paris Agreement] today.”

Law School student Erum K. Sattar said she enjoyed Kyte’s answer to her question regarding the possibilities for nuclear energy in developing countries. Sattar had pointed to an iPhone app called ISO to Go that said up to 36 percent of energy in the Cambridge area came from nuclear energy, and asked why nuclear energy couldn’t be pursued as a sustainable energy source in developing countries.

“I think the most interesting part... was the admission that I heard from our keynote speaker that essentially it's probably public perception of nuclear energy that is no longer favorable,” she said.

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