The Foreign Service Journal - April 2014 - page 7

APRIL 2014
limate change is a serious,
man-made problem. I am
glad that it is one of our diplo-
matic priorities, and that one
component—green buildings—is the focus
of this month’s
At the same time, I wonder if our overall
approach to other countries on the issue of
climate change is muddied by the fact that
the United States has historically benefited
from the unrestricted use of carbon-based
One U.S. environmental initiative helps
clear the air literally and figuratively—the
League of Green Embassies. It shows the
United States leading by example through
high-profile efforts to reduce our own
embassies’ carbon emissions. Here are
three reasons to love this initiative.
Policy Created, Led and Sustained
byManagement Officers.
How refreshing
it is to have a policy initiative expressed
through concrete, meaningful actions.
This is what can happen whenmanage-
ment officers are in charge, for example,
changing our vehicles, lighting, electricity
generation, heating and, in short, ensuring
that the way we live and work reflects our
values and policy interests.
Leading by example in this way hap-
pens to be effective public
diplomacy, as well. Europeans
have heard our talking points.
But what seemed new and
interesting to themwhen I last
served there was what the U.S.
embassies in their cities were
which attracted
attention and local media
The League of Green Embassies is help-
ing to change European views about the
U.S. commitment to climate policy goals.
Let me be specific. While serving as
Embassy Stockholm’s management coun-
selor, Mary Teirlynck proposed the idea for
a League of Green Embassies at a fall 2007
offsite dedicated to the embassy’s alterna-
tive energy partnership with Sweden. I was
a participant. The idea was that American
embassies across the region should col-
laborate, combine and showcase their
efforts on energy efficiency.
The embassy’s general services officers
and Swedish staff quickly popularized the
idea with counterparts at other European
posts, which led to the creation of a web-
site for trading greening ideas. You can find
the site that has evolved here:
The League became a strong advocate
for greening our embassies worldwide, and
now has more than 100 member missions.
Policy Originating at Overseas Posts,
Not inWashington.
A creative tension
often exists betweenWashington and
the field, with both sides playing their
expected roles. But sometimes the roles
can be reversed, with the field recom-
mending policy andWashington proceed-
ing to implement it.
Such was the case with the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipe-
line. On the face of it, supporting
a 1,000-mile pipeline connect-
ing the Caspian Sea to the Medi-
terranean was unlikely. That was
the initial Washington reaction.
But after U.S. embassies in the Caucasus
and Turkey strongly advocated for the
project, State eventually put its full weight
behind it, coordinating the diplomacy and
financial interagency in a sustained effort
that took nearly 10 years. And thus a major
foreign policy achievement of the Clinton
administration was secured.
Such was also the case with the League,
which was up and running in 2007, press-
ing for more greening initiatives. Similar
thinking at headquarters complemented
the League’s efforts, with key support from
the Bureaus of Administration and Over-
seas Building Operations and the Under
Secretary for Management.
Conservation As an Independent Vir-
Greening one’s chancery and embassy
vehicles is a good idea in its own right,
regardless of whether one believes in the
worst-case scenarios of climate change.
As Secretary of State John Kerry has
pointed out, greening leads to cleaner
water and cleaner air. If applied at home as
well as abroad, it can also slow the increase
in U.S. consumption of oil and gas, allow-
ing us to export more and, eventually, to
reduce the world’s dependence on the
oil and gas exports of other, unfriendly
For these reasons, I hope you will work
with the League of Green Embassies. And
as always, be well, stay safe and keep in
Robert J. Silverman is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.
Three Reasons to Love the
League of Green Embassies
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