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Interior Secretary: Climate Change Always a Priority in Obama Administration

November 30, 2016 – U.S Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and senior White House advisor Brian Deese reflected on how climate change remained a consistent priority throughout the Obama Administration at Georgetown’s sixth installment of  “The Exit Interview” series last night.

Jewell, appointed to her position in 2013, oversees over half a billion public lands, wildlife, water reserves and more, and has been a strong promoter of the fight against climate change.

She said decisions in the Obama administration were always made with a look toward the future. 

“We don’t think about these decisions in the here and now, we’re thinking about it for generations forward,” she told the audience of students faculty and staff and community members. “[We think about] what are the right decisions that we can make today that will create a brighter future, not just for the people in this room but for your descendants for many generations to come.”

Jewell and Deese’s Exit Interview talk, sponsored by the McCourt School of Public Policy’s Institute of Politics and Public Service (GU Politics), was a part of a six-part series designed to explore policy successes and challenges in the current administration and give advice to the next president.

“In every single one” of Obama’s international engagements creating a sustainable world has always been a priority,” said Deese, who oversees climate, conservation and energy policy and advises Obama on a range of domestic and international policy issues.

Jewell said great science solutions must be brought to the table to ensure a safe stable environment for the population.

“That means supporting your scientists and giving them the tools to give you the tools to manage your landscapes effectively,” she explained.

Lisa Heinzerling, the Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. Professor of Law at Georgetown, moderated the talk in Lohrfink Auditorium, where Jewell and Deese participated in a Q&A with students following their conversation.

Heinzerling served as senior climate policy counsel to the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in 2009. She then served as associate administrator of EPA’s Office of Policy. Prior to those posts, she was a member of President Obama’s EPA transition team.

“It’s well worth recalling that there really wasn’t a regulatory program for climate in the United States [at the time I began my service],” she recalled. “When you really hear about any regulatory program for climate, whether it’s at the Department of the Interior, EPA or anything like that, it really has grown up in this administration.” 

Jewell and Deese’s talk comes after several other top officials in the Obama administration that included U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (L’83) and National Security Advisor Susan Rice.