On Thursday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered the keynote address at the National Clean Energy Summit. “Climate change is the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of changes we face,” she told the audience, adding that choosing between the environment and the economy was a “false choice debate.”
Clinton is already being hailed as the Democratic frontrunner for the 2016 presidential campaign, though the former first lady has yet to make an official announcement.
Chris Lehane suggested that the speech was a crucial first step in appealing to climate-focused voters. The annual energy conference “has become one of the must-stops for someone who wants to talk about their climate and energy environmental credentials,” he said. Lehane served in both the Clinton administration and the Gore campaign and is now a strategist for billionaire climate advocate Tom Steyer.
Clinton spoke at length about the need for America to step up its foreign policy, referring to the upcoming Paris climate summit. President Obama is currently facing a challenge on that front, attempting to secure a voluntary agreement amongst nations in lieu of an official treaty that will likely be killed by Congress. This has frustrated developing nations, who say that without a binding treaty, the U.S. is endorsing non-action.
Past experience has proven that international treaties made without U.S. involvement have little teeth in the long run. This was the case with 1997’s international climate summit, when President Bill Clinton failed to secure Congressional approval for the Kyoto Protocol. The U.S. and China are the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, and at least one of the nation’s needs to lead on the issue if any progress is to be made worldwide.
During her address, Clinton passionately spoke about America’s potential to become the “clean energy superpower of the 21st century.”
To combat global climate change, she said, the U.S. needs to lead by example. Enforcing Obama’s climate action plan, she said, would “show the world we are serious about meeting our obligations and show…the U.S. can still do big things.”
Clinton also threw her support behind the EPA’s proposed rule to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent nationwide.