When President Donald J. Trump came into office promising to withdraw from the Paris Agreement (which he eventually did), Ms Biniyaz left the government.
She joined Yale Law School as a lecturer and led an unofficial diaspora of Obama administration officials who worked to protect the Paris Agreement during the Trump years, reminding nations at UN meetings that American cities, states and other institutions remained committed to the agreement.
When Mr. Kerry agreed to be President Biden’s climate envoy, asked Ms. Biniaz to rejoin the government. “You don’t say no to John Kerry,” she said.
Her signature look — a long denim skirt, button-down blouse, over-the-shoulder cardigan, and white hair in a bun — gives her the look of someone’s aunt about to stop knitting. During a high-stakes negotiation, she stands out in a sea of men in navy suits. Colleagues call it “Suina’s uniform”. One of them dressed up as her for Halloween.
“If you bring someone into a room of climate negotiators and say, ‘Pick the person who is one of the smartest negotiators in the world,’ the answer is Sue,” Nutt said Keohane, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, an environmental group. “But it’s not immediately obvious.” A lot of people overlook her, and she’s okay with that.”
For all her skill with language, Ms. Biniaz occasionally wonders if her work has an impact.
“You might say, are you just covering up the differences?” Ms. Biniaz said. “Sometimes I think about it.” Am I prolonging disagreements by finding a word form that everyone agrees on? I don’t know if there is an answer to that question.”
But in the end, the right words matter, she said, because they define and demand action from the community of nations.
“It’s important to me because it’s important to the world,” Ms Biniyaz said. “Some people say it’s just words, but to me it’s like, what do you mean, it’s just words? International agreements are just words. It is a reflection of what we think we have agreed with other countries. And if the words don’t matter, then the whole enterprise fails.”