Todd Stern

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Learn more from the Center for Media and Democracy's research on climate change.

Todd Stern has been appointed by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a special envoy on climate change. His role will be as principal advisor on international climate policy and strategy, the Barack Obama Administration’s chief climate negotiator at the meetings -- such at COP15 -- on a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol.[1]

Role as Special Envoy for Climate Change

Announcing his appointment as Special Envoy for Climate Change, Hillary Clinton stated that his role would to "serve as a principal advisor on international climate policy and strategy. He will be the Administration’s chief climate negotiator. He will be leading our efforts with United Nations negotiations and processes involving a smaller set of countries and bilateral sessions. Because the main cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuel and because the solution rests with our ability to shift the global economy from a high to a low carbon energy base, the Envoy will be a lead participant in the development of climate and clean energy policy. He will participate in all energy-related policy discussions that, across our government, can have an impact on carbon emissions, and will be looking for opportunities to forge working alliances."[1]

Speaking following the announcement of his new role, Sterm thanked John Podesta, who, he said, "more than anyone has been my mentor in Washington, and is a model for all those who fight the good fight."[2]


A biographical note from just prior to his appointment by Hillary Clinton stated that Stern was a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress "focusing on climate change and environmental issues. He is a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where he is Vice Chair of the firm's Public Policy and Strategy practice."[3]

"As Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary in the White House from 1993 to 1998, Stern played a central role in preparing the key issues of domestic, economic and national security policy for the President's decisions. He also coordinated the Administration's Initiative on Global Climate Change from 1997 to 1999, acting as the senior White House negotiator at the Kyoto and Buenos Aires negotiations. At Treasury, from 1999 to 2001, Stern advised the Secretary on the policy and politics of a broad range of economic and financial issues," it stated.[3]

"After leaving the Government, Stern served as an Adjunct Lecturer at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and as a Resident Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Stern graduated with Highest Honors from Dartmouth College in 1973, and with Honors from Harvard Law School in 1977. He is also a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations," it states.[3]

Stern joined Wilmer, Culter and Pickering, as it was known then, in July 2001. In a media release the firm stated that his "practice will focus on congressional investigations and crisis management. He will also provide strategic advice to clients on a broad range of legislative and policy matters, in such areas as financial regulation, intellectual property, and the environment."[4]

His current -- as of January 2009 -- biographical note on the Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr website stated that he was "a partner in the firm's Regulatory and Government Affairs and Litigation/Controversy Departments, is vice chair of the Public Policy and Strategy Group and a member of the Defense, National Security and Government Contracts and Government and Regulatory Litigation Practice Groups. He joined the firm in 2001. His practice focuses on public policy advice, congressional investigations, strategic counseling, crisis management and anti-money laundering."[5]

The biographical note states that Stern "concentrates on advising clients on matters that lie at the intersection of law, public policy, politics and media. He counsels companies, industry coalitions and other institutions on a wide variety of public policy issues. He has represented clients in numerous House and Senate investigations. He has provided strategic advice to companies and institutions regarding problems that carry significant political or public relations risk. He has also frequently advised on crisis management matters, including advising on the development and execution of media strategy that is sensitive to both underlying legal concerns and public relations imperatives. In addition, Mr. Stern has advised banks, broker-dealers, insurance companies and other financial institutions on anti-money laundering matters, including compliance, the development of government regulations, and enforcement."[5]

It also added that, while working for the White House, Stern "played a central role in preparing the key issues of domestic, economic and national security policy for the President’s decision, as well as handling a number of special assignments, such as the management of contested nominations." It also stated that he "served as Senior Counsel to Senator Patrick Leahy on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he advised Senator Leahy on intellectual property, telecommunications and constitutional issues."[5]

A 1995 media release announcing Stern as Assistant to President Bill Clinton and Staff Secretary stated that "Prior to his service at the White House, Stern was Senior Counsel to Senator Patrick Leahy on the Senate Judiciary Committee's Technology and Law Subcommittee (June 1990 - January 1993), and Vice President with Podesta Associates (1989 - 90). Stern served as General Counsel with Associated Mills/Pollenex in Chicago and New York (1985 - 87), as an associate with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison (1979 - 85) and as an attorney with the Legal Aid Society in New York (1977 - 79). Stern worked on the Clinton-Gore '92 presidential campaign and the presidential transition."[6]

Advising Bill Clinton

When Stern was an adviser to Bill Clinton, he drafted a memo addressing an internal investigation into in controversy over the sacking of several staff members in the travel office of President Bill Clinton. "The problem is that if we do any kind of report & fail to address these Qs, press jumps on you wanting to know answers; while if you give answers that that aren't fully honest (e.g. nothing re Hillary) you risk hugely compounding the problem by getting caught in half-truths. You run risk of turning this into 'cover-up.'," he wrote.[7]

Quotes on Climate Change

  • May 28, 2004: "After all, the evidence of climate change is overwhelming. Average temperatures are clearly rising — the 12 warmest years on record have occurred since 1990; the last 50 year period appears to be the warmest half-century in 6,000 years. Evaporation and rainfall are increasing; glaciers are retreating; sea ice is shrinking; sea level is rising; permafrost is melting; wildfires are increasing; storm and flood damage is soaring. The canary in the coal mine is singing for all she's worth."[8]
  • June 1, 2007: Stern and William Antholis argued that negotiations international environmental treaties via United Nationas meeting involving representatives of over 150 countries "is no way to run a planet". Instead they argued for the creation of an E-8 to "break through the political fog and bureaucratic clutter to give global environmental issues the focused top-level treatment they deserve. We propose the creation of an E-8: a compact forum of leaders from developed and developing countries devoting their full attention once a year to global ecological and resource challenges." They proposed four developed and four developing countries -- United States, the European Union, Japan, Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa. They noted that other possible contenders could be Australia, Canada, Indonesia and Mexico but that "the objective of preserving a sense of intimacy and informality argues against a larger grouping."[9]
  • January 26, 2009: "As the President and Secretary Clinton have made clear, climate change poses a profound threat to our future. If our deepest obligation in life is to care for our children and leave a better world for them and those who follow, then we must confront climate change now with an entirely new level of commitment, energy, and focus. Our scientists are telling us, emphatically, that the rate at which we are warming the planet is unsustainable and will cause vast and potentially catastrophic damage to our environment, our economy, and our national security."[2]
  • January 26, 2009:"And so the challenge before us is great, but so is the opportunity. Containing climate change will require nothing less than transforming the global economy from a high-carbon to a low-carbon energy base. But done right, this can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and become a driver for economic growth in the 21st century. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have left no doubt that a new day is dawning in the U.S. approach to climate change and clean energy. The time for denial, delay, and dispute is over. The time for the United States to take up its rightful place at the negotiating table is here."[2]
  • September 18, 2009: "My basic view here is that there are a handful of really important issues that are core to getting to get a deal done, that there is a deal there to be done if countries evaluate what they can do on the basis of their own real interests, their own economic, material, and political interests. There is a lot of ideological baggage that has been carried – that has been sort of part of the DNA of these negotiations for the last 17 years. And that kind of baggage can hang you up and make agreement hard to get. I think if people can focus on their real interests, what they can do, what they can’t do, respecting everybody’s own legitimate constraints, there’s a deal there to be done. I think that we will get a deal done, but that’s critical. That pragmatic viewpoint is going to be critical to having that happen."[10]
  • October 18, 2009: Kathy Newman, from Channel 4 News asked Stern whether he agreed with "Gordon Brown that the planet does face a catastrophe if there is no deal at Copenhagen, or would you use slightly less apocalyptic language?" Stern evaded the question, preferring to prise Brown for having taken a leadership role in the debate on climate change.[11] Immediately afterwards, he was asked "Are we facing [inaudible]?" (though it appears from media reports the missing word was "catastrophe")[12], Stern dismissively said "You should ask a scientist."[11]

Political donations

Stern has been a long-term contributor to the Democratic Party candidates and organisations.[13] He has financially supported campaigns by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Judith Feder, Rahm Emanuel, Jeanne Shaheen, John Kerry, Kath Rutz, Carl Levin, Patrick Leahy, Tom Strickland, Chris Van Hollen, the Green Mountain PAC, DNC Services Corp, Mary L. Landrieu, Tom Udall, Dianne Feinstein, Kent Conrad, Ira Shapiro, Erskine Bowles, Amy Klobuchar and Joe Sestak.

Articles and Speeches by Stern on Climate Change

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "Secretary Clinton Announces Appointment of Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern", Media Release, January 26, 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Todd Stern, "Secretary Clinton Announces Appointment of Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern", Media Release, January 26, 2009. (Following the announcement, Stern spoke briefly).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Todd Stern: Senior Fellow", Center for American Progress, accessed January 2009.
  4. "Former Senior White House Aide and Treasury Official Joins Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering", Media Release, July 10, 2001.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Todd D. Stern", Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr website, accessed January 2009.
  6. "President Clinton Names Todd Stern To Be White House Staff Secretray, Philip Caplan Deputy Staff Secretray", Media Release, June 30, 1995.
  7. David Johnston, "Memo Places Hillary Clinton At Core of Travel Office Case", New York Times, January 5, 1996.
  8. Todd Stern, "Global Warming Goes to the Movies", Center for American Progress, May 28, 2004.
  9. Todd Stern and William Antholis, "Creating the E-8", The American Interest, June 1, 2007.
  10. Todd Stern and Michael Froman, "Special Briefing on September 17-18 Meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate", Media conference, September 18, 2009.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change, "London Meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate", London, United Kingdom, October 18, 2009.
  12. "Britain, US insist global climate deal can be done", Sydney Morning Herald, October 20, 2009. (This is an AFP story).
  13. "Tod Stern", Open Secrets, Center for Responsive Politics, accessed January 2009.

External Articles

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