Todd Stern

Working tirelessly to bring climate laggards aboard

A senior negotiator at the Kyoto Protocol in the mid-1990’s, Todd Stern was appointed Special Envoy for Climate Change in 2009 under then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Tall and bespectacled, he’s one of the most familiar faces at the climate negotiations, with a reputation for getting things done without being too aggressive.

He played a key role in the 2014 US-China agreement on reducing emissions, and has worked tirelessly to bring climate laggards on board – both developing countries and climate-sceptic Republicans in the US congress.

Yet at the 2013 negotiations in Warsaw, the G77 and China plus the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) were looking to him for a breakthrough on loss and damage. After listening quietly to the Chair, he said “America can’t agree on it”. LDCs and developing countries were forced to compromise by putting loss and damage under the umbrella of the Adaptation bloc rather than keeping it separate, which would have probably meant rich countries giving more funds to it.

But, Stern and his team were constructive during the talks in Lima last year and many say that pressure is building on Barack Obama to seal a deal in Paris this year. Whether or not Stern can make the deal depends a lot on whether he can convince his own Congress, motivate the group of rich countries and win the trust of giant emitters like India and China.