Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 44

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Susan Biniaz

Climate Change Master Negotiator

''

By Richard Blaustein

"In my estimation there really isn't anybody
like Sue in any other delegation anywhere
around the world," says Todd Stern, a senior
fellow at the Brookings Institute and the
Obama administration's special envoy for
climate change from 2009 to 2016. "She was
a counselor to me in all matters substantive
and strategic, and also has an amazing ability
to figure out a way to bridge a gap on
whatever the issue might be."
Raised in Wantagh, New York - the "gateway
to Jones Beach," she points out - Biniaz
attended Yale University, thinking she would
pursue a pre-med path. But she delighted in
the humanities courses she took and majored
in Russian studies. At one point her dormitory
resident adviser, a law student, suggested that
Biniaz consider work at the State Department
Office of the Legal Adviser if she chose the law
school route. Biniaz later worked there one
summer while a student at Columbia Law
School. Earning her JD in 1983, Biniaz clerked
for Judge Dorothy W. Nelson of the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, then
commenced full-time work at the State
Department in 1984.

44 WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

Biniaz believed she would stay a few years
and then work for a law firm, but her State
Department career lasted more than three
decades. "It never stopped being fun," Biniaz
says. "If you were sitting in an office in an
academic institution, you couldn't make up
the kinds of issues we confronted. That is
how interesting, bizarre, and challenging
things were."
At the State Department legal affairs office
in the 1980s, Biniaz employed her Russian
language skills, working on bilateral treaties
with the Soviet Union such as the USA-USSR
Maritime Boundary Agreement covering the
world's longest maritime boundary - over
1,000 miles in the Bering Sea and northern
Pacific Ocean. No less exciting, in the late
'80s Biniaz chaired the international group of
lawyers that drafted the operating agreement
for Space Station Freedom, of which the United

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020

Energy Policy Institute/University of Chicago

	
Problem solving" is how Susan (Sue)
	
Biniaz describes her approach to
	
international law and negotiations.
In her 32-year State Department career,
Biniaz was a redoubtable figure on many
international law issues, most prominently
as a climate change negotiator for more than
a quarter century. Since retiring in January
2017, Biniaz has remained actively engaged
in international climate develop-ments as
a senior fellow for the United Nations
Foundation and through her law school
and university teaching.

States, Western Europe, Japan, and Canada participated, with Russia joining later. "We had to
create a legal regime from scratch," Biniaz
recalls. "We had to figure out what would be
the criminal law up there . . . the civil law, the
liability regime, what happens in terms of intellectual property if something is invented up
there."
The same office that managed the space
station work - the State Department's Bureau
of Oceans and International Environmental and
Scientific Affairs - handled the emerging issue
of climate change, so Biniaz easily segued in
1988 to setting up the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC's first assess-
ment report had a decisive role in creating
the United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change (UNFCCC), the world's primary
climate change agreement adopted at the
1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.



Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
ABA Delegates Corner
Calendar of Events
Re-Envisioning the Bar Exam feature
The New Normal in Legal Education feature
On Shaky Ground feature
How the Pandemic Has Transformed Courts Feature
The Science of Why Clients Ignore Counsel's Advice feature
Taking the Stand
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight - Susan Biniaz
Member Spotlight - Whit Washington
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Disciplinary Summaries
Speaking of Ethics
Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 7
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 9
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - ABA Delegates Corner
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Re-Envisioning the Bar Exam feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 14
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - The New Normal in Legal Education feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 20
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - On Shaky Ground feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 24
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - How the Pandemic Has Transformed Courts Feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 28
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 30
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - The Science of Why Clients Ignore Counsel's Advice feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 34
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 37
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 41
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 43
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Member Spotlight - Susan Biniaz
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 45
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Member Spotlight - Whit Washington
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 47
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 50
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 53
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 55
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover4
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