February 3, 2023

Money News PH

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Meet the “closer” who finds the right words when climate talks hit a wall

When President Donald J. Trump took office and vowed to withdraw from the Paris Agreement (which he eventually did), Ms. Biniaz left the government.

She went to Yale Law School as a lecturer and led an unofficial diaspora of Obama administration officials who lobbied to protect the Paris Agreement during the Trump years and reminded nations at UN meetings that American cities, States and other institutions continue to abide by the agreement.

When Mr Kerry agreed to serve as President Biden’s climate ambassador, he asked Ms Biniaz to return to government. “You don’t say no to John Kerry,” she said.

Her signature look—long denim skirt, button-down blouse, cardigan slung over the shoulders, and white hair tied in a bun—gives her the look of an aunt about to unpack her knitwear. In high-stakes negotiations, she stands out from a sea of ​​men in dark blue suits. Colleagues call it “Sue’s Uniform”. One of them dressed up as her for Halloween.

“If you put someone in a room with climate negotiators and you say, ‘Pick the person who’s among the most accomplished negotiators,’ the answer is Sue,” said Nat Keohane, the president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. an environmental group. “But that’s not immediately obvious. A lot of people overlook her, and she has no problem with that.”

Despite her language skills, Ms. Biniaz occasionally wonders whether her work is making a difference.

“You could say: Are you just papering over differences?” Ms Biniaz said. “Sometimes I think about it. Am I perpetuating disagreements by finding a word form that everyone can agree on? I don’t know if there is an answer to that question.”

But ultimately it comes down to the right words, she said, because they define and demand action from the international community.

“It matters to me because the world matters,” Ms. Biniaz said. “Some people say it’s just words but for me it’s like what do you mean it’s just words? International agreements are just words. It reflects what we think we have agreed with other countries. And if the words don’t matter, then the whole enterprise fails.”