At the American Renewable Energy Day Summit, a Call to Accelerate Solutions

Can we truly speed up the world's transition to clean tech? Can America's splintered right and left find common ground on the climate debate? What is the best way forward for America to achieve energy security? Can the green sector really create jobs and economic opportunity?

These are just some of the questions that are being addressed from August 10-13 during the American Renewable Energy Day (AREDAY) Summit in Aspen, Colorado, which brings together some of the world's most profound thinkers and doers on environmental issues -- renewable energy, sustainability, climate change, clean tech and conservation. The Summit is titled 'Accelerating Solutions for the Great Transition,' and has a serious mission: to promote the rapid deployment of renewable energy and energy efficient strategies. Discussion is in a small, very intimate environment and attendance is capped at 250 people. The venue is the historic Hotel Jerome.

Chip Comins, founder of the AREDAY Summit, as well as Chairman and CEO of the American Renewable Energy Institute, hoped the conference would truly address the need to step up progress. "Renewables are just scratching the surface, but we need to make changes because we are breaking down the environment; this leads to acidication of the oceans, climate change and superstorms. We are seeing this all over the world," he said

"We believe we have to tell the truth. Physics is real and science is not a choice, it is not a political issue, it is a physical reality. The whole human race is being forced to confront it," Comins added, saying that this conference could be put into context by the following: "We had the Great Depression and survived it, and then the global recession, and now we are entering the great transition."

Many of the most profound global leaders in renewable energy and clean tech come every year for the confab. This year, President Jimmy Carter will be honored. "He put solar panels in 1978 on the White House and jumpstarted the solar industry," said Comins, adding that, although the panels came off during the next administration, the President had started something groundbreaking.

At the Summit, over 135 speakers will highlight some of the biggest issues in renewable energy today. About 40 percent of the speakers are women, although Comins said he would prefer half. On Saturday, the day before the Summit, there will be film screenings at the local library.

Speakers and attendees include: Ted Turner, media mogul and philanthropist; T. Boone Pickens, American business magnate; Michael Bennet, Colorado Senator; General Wesley Clark; and actress Daryl Hannah. In addition, some of the most prominent environmental leaders will attend: Dr. Sylvia Earle of Mission Blue; Lester R. Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute; and Professor Graciela Chichilnisky, author of the carbon market of the UN Kyoto Protocol.

Business and political leaders include: Geoffrey Kent, Founder and CEO of Abercrombie and Kent; Riggs Eckelberry, CEO of OriginOil Inc.; William C. Eacho, former Ambassador to Austria and Chairman of the Partnership for Responsible Growth; and Reed Hunt, former FCC Chairman and Co-chairman of Coalition for Green Capital.

This is one of most interesting and unusual gatherings of its kind. The Summit brings together unlikely bedfellows -- climate scientists sitting with eco-friendly racecar drivers, right and left wing politicians debating, global billionaires talking with local activists, authors, explorers, entrepreneurs and more. The goal is to build collaborations between unlikely allies and to find common ground. Because the venue is small and the vibe casual, conversations between unlikely parties often take place. The result: new connections, ideas and initiatives. Aspen is a place known for power players letting their hair down.

The political polarity on climate issues is enormous, so the chance to have two prominent left and right wing leaders on stage together is a very big deal. There will be an armchair conversation between billionaire Tom Steyer and Ted Roosevelt IV. Tom Steyer is a former hedge fund manager who also funded the creation of the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy at Stanford University. He is best known for his recent creation, NextGen Climate, a super PAC, which is seeking to pressure federal and state officials to enact climate change measures. Ted Roosevelt IV, great grandson of 26th President Theodore Roosevelt, is an investment banker and managing director at Barclays Capital Corporation. At the Republican Convention in 2000, Roosevelt gave the speech on the environment, as well as many other conferences and meetings.

The most important takeaway and hope, said Eric Ringsby, sponsor and board member of AREDAY, is that the Summit debates enable people to go out and make a difference in fighting climate change. "My hope is that people are activated to make positive change, and to innovate with renewable energy, and to make money in the process."

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