Potential 2016 Presidential candidate says environment cannot be relegated behind economic concerns
By Ed King
Promoting economic growth over the environment is a “false choice” that stores up problems for future generations, warns Hilary Clinton in her new book, Hard Choices.
The former US Secretary of State says she became aware of the effects of climate change after a trip to Alaska in 2005, witnessing dying trees and forest fires.
“Virtually everyone I spoke to on that trip had a personal wake-up call about what was happening,” she writes.
“A tribal elder recounted how he had returned to a lake where he had fished as a boy only to find it dried up. I met lifelong participants in dogsled races who told me they no longer even needed to wear gloves.”
And Clinton, who looks increasingly likely to run for President in 2016, indicates she would continue Barack Obama’s policies aimed at cutting US carbon emissions 17% on 2005 levels by 2020.
“When the economy is hurting and people are looking for jobs, many other concerns fade into the background,” she says.
“And the old false choice between promoting the economy and protecting the environment surfaces once again.”
Clinton’s stance would likely put her at odds with her Republican challengers, if she decides to make a run for the White House.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, widely touted as a GOP rising star and potential 2016 contender, does not believe human activity is causing climate change.
“Our climate is always changing,” he said last month, accusing scientists of taking “a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to manmade activities.”
Other possible candidates like Texas Senator Rick Perry and Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan have also expressed doubts over whether climate change is occurring.
Clinton’s memoirs also shed light on the 2009 UN climate summit in Copenhagen, billed as a meeting where nations could solve the problem, but ending with an inconclusive agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
She offers a detailed account of how she and President Obama stalked the corridors of the conference centre followed by their security details, searching for a secret meeting taking place between the leaders of China, India, Brazil and South Africa.
The pair were concerned about reports that Premier Wen Jiabao had decided to try and dilute an agreement on the final night of talks, and were concerned when he and other emerging economy representatives disappeared.
“Off we went, charging up a flight of stairs and encountering surprised Chinese officials, who tried to divert us by sending us in the opposite direction. We were undeterred,” she says.
“The Chinese guards put their arms up against the door again, but I ducked under and made it through,” Clinton writes.
“In a makeshift conference room whose glass walls had been covered by drapes for privacy against prying eyes, we found Wen wedged around a long table with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and South African President Jacob Zuma.
“Jaws dropped when they saw us. ‘Are you ready?’ said President Obama, flashing a big grin. Now the real negotiations could begin. It was a moment that was at least a year in the making.”