John Kerry, former secretary of state and Democratic U.S. senator for Massachusetts, wants environmentalists to bring their activism to the voting booths.
Kerry spoke about climate change Friday during the annual Energy, Environmental and Oceans Leaders Day conference, which highlights the latest developments in energy and environmental policies. He addressed a crowd of nearly 200 people at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence.
He said the most important thing environmentalists can do to address climate change is to vote for politicians who make the environment a priority.
"That's how we are going to win back our future on this issue, I'm convinced," Kerry said. "We can't just come to the Rhode Island Convention Center...if we don't do the practical hard work of making democracy work."
Kerry said it's also critical for lawmakers to keep pushing climate change legislation.
He commended Rhode Island's Democratic U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse for speaking on the senate floor nearly 200 times about the issue.
Kerry also spoke about a global oceans conference he attended earlier this month where countries and corporations from around the world committed to addressing ocean pollution, acidification, and over fishing.
Kerry's environmental history includes signing the Paris Climate Agreement last year to commit the U.S. to keeping the global temperature increase below two degrees Celsius. President Donald Trump announced earlier this year that he plans to withdraw the U.S. from that agreement.
Kerry said Friday Trump's decision won't stop progress.
"Donald Trump may have pulled out of Paris, but the American people are staying in Paris, we're going to meet the standard (for global temperature and air pollution) and I believe we're going to exceed it," Kerry said.
Kerry was the first U.S. secretary of state to travel to Antarctica to meet with scientists to discuss the impacts of climate change on ice sheets.