Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Entertains Questions at SU

April 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today, I was incredibly fortunate to see current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak at Syracuse University. She presented an hour-long Q&A with the Dean of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, James Steinberg, her former Deputy Secretary of State. Throughout the presentation, Secretary Clinton answered questions covering topics from American aid to developing nations, to how to promote human rights worldwide, and provided advice to students seeking a career in public service. The highlight, however, came from two questions regarding sustainability – one on energy diplomacy, and the other on international environmental protection.

Secretary Clinton at SU!

Secretary Clinton at SU's Hendricks Chapel with Dean Steinberg

Early on in the program, Secretary Clinton was asked about how our nation was working to address future issues in the global political economy. She discussed how she implements the QDDR, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Democracy Review, which was based on a similar program that has been used by the Pentagon for years. The program is essentially to look down the road, four years ahead, and figure out what the potential key points of diplomacy will be. One of her main examples front the first ever QDDR? Energy.

Energy diplomacy is important – it affects our politics across the world. For example, if Europeans are dependent of Russian natural gas, then they will oppose any worldwide treaties that would affect Russia’s ability to produce this gas. We saw this years ago during the 1973 Oil Crisis – we supported Israel politically and militarily, so the nations of OPEC, which were mostly in the Middle East and opposed Israel, decided to cut our supply of oil.

What Secretary Clinton pointed out is that there aren’t many people with expertise in energy diplomacy. She’s recruited a whole bunch to help steer our nation in the right direction, but there needs to be more experts on the topic. This doesn’t mean, however, that we aren’t still making progress. In fact, we just signed a momentous transboundary agreement with Mexico regarding oil drilling in the Gulf, following the BP oil spill of 2010.

Later on in the talk, Mrs. Clinton was asked about her thoughts on our worldwide environmental policy following our celebrations of the 42 annual Earth Day yesterday. Clinton described herself as a “perennial optimist,” and reminded us that while we are making progress, the problem isn’t just going to magically disappear. She acknowledged that there has not in fact been a big climate deal made in the Obama administration’s first years, but reminded us that those years did coincide with an enormous financial crisis. During a time of economic downturn, the front-end costs of environmental sustainability might have seemed a little lofty, but she was pretty confident that it would have been a worthwhile investment in the long-term.

Secretary Clinton proceeded to explain that she was very confident in the future of our world’s environment following the recent conference in Copenhagen. In fact, the summit resulted in the first agreement in which developing nations agreed to climate change measures. Up until now, the attitude had basically been: “It’s not our problem. The developed nations caused it. Let us do what they did to get on their level, and then we’ll make change.” However, that’s all changing. Following further work at Cancun and Durban, Secretary Clinton is confident, and excited to see the work that continues at Rio 2020. In other news, the USA has also officially joined the Clean Air and Climate Coalition, which is a group that has grown to include 10 nations and focuses on reducing the emissions of non-CO2 greenhouse gasses.

On the home front, SOS Clinton believes that we are finally taking responsibility and slowly cleaning up our own house. We can’t go after other polluting nations until we get our own problems in check – we need to fix the dangers of hydrofracking, push for other alternative energy sources, and generally be more sustainable. Her diagnosis? We’re getting better.

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