GSPM Student Discusses Nuclear Energy with European Leaders

David Gargaro spoke to representatives of the European Union about the global future of nuclear energy.  

November 1, 2018

nuclear energy david gargaro

GSPM student David Gargaro spoke to representatives of the European Union about the global future of nuclear energy at an October conference in Brussels. (William Atkins/GW Today)

By Tatyana Hopkins

David Gargaro enjoyed a successful international career as an orchestra conductor for more than a decade, until 2016 when he unexpectedly found himself drawn to the world of global politics and diplomacy.

That summer, while serving as an Ansbacher Conducting Fellow for the Vienna Philharmonic, he was invited to speak to audiences that included representatives of the Austrian government, officials of the United Nations and other world leaders about the parallels of artistic leadership and the world’s shifting politics.

“We were going through a really interesting political time,” Mr. Gargaro said.  

At the time, both Austria and the United States were in the throes of national elections, and he said he was able to make a connection between his job as a conductor and the world’s shifting politics.  

“My job was to listen, and when there were problems, fix them, make people come together and make something better than it was before,” he said.

But he said his final push into politics, came with the 2016 presidential elections. Having immigrated to the United States from Great Britain 13 years ago, Mr. Gargaro’s immigration status left him unable to vote in the election.

“I was hit pretty hard with Brexit, and then Donald Trump was elected, and that is what pushed me into politics,” he said. "That was enough for me to leave my career.”

Now pursuing a master’s degree at the Graduate School of Political Management in international politics, Mr. Gargaro finds himself deeper in world politics—most recently at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung's annual European Union’s Leadership in Global Climate Change conference.

In October, he presented a paper on expanding the use of nuclear energy globally through the model of public-private partnerships to leaders of the European Union and other global stakeholders at the conference in Brussels.  

Representing the Rainey Center, a post-partisan think tank, as an energy fellow, Mr. Gargaro attended the one-day conference, which sought to explore opportunities for international cooperation in climate change action in advance of the 24th annual session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention (UNFCCC) on Climate Change, informally known as COP24.

COP24 will take place in December in Katowice, Poland, where global leaders will decide what actions are necessary to ensure effective implementation of the UNFCCC’s climate change regulations.

“Europe is uneasy with the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord but are fully aware that private industry is engaged in the work of mitigating climate change,” he said.

In June 2017, President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from its role in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation. To date, the move has left the United States as the only country to reject the voluntary pact, which is aimed at curbing global temperature rise to under 2 degrees Celsius for the next 100 years.

In the paper he presented, “The Global Future of Nuclear Energy,” Mr. Gargaro describes how more than 3,500 organizations, corporations and jurisdictions have undertaken projects aimed at meeting or surpassing previously established emission-related goals for the United States set out in the Paris Accord—moves made in response to Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the deal. He noted that these governments and private institutions represent an $11.4 trillion economic footprint, enough to constitute the world’s third largest economy.

“We have this really interesting dichotomy,” he said. “The administration is not doing much [in the area of climate change], but we have all of this going on.”

He argues that expanding nuclear energy is the only way global leaders can realistically meet the goals set forth in the Paris Agreement. In a previous paper, Mr. Gargaro explored public perception of nuclear energy in the United States and found there was a general mistrust of the use of nuclear energy.

“While the U.S. has solar and wind power, at the bottom of this huge issue is this public perception issue of nuclear energy,” he said, “and that is what is stunting growth of that part of the market in energy.”

Mr. Gargaro said he was pleased to have the opportunity to travel to Brussels and share insights regarding nuclear energy such as bourgeoning technology that he says will make the energy source cheaper, safer and more effective, though he noted that there “will still be an uphill battle” on the matter as Europe “seems to be more interested in developing renewable energy sources.”

Sarah Hunt, M.P.S. ’17 a co-founder of the Rainey Center and GSPM graduate, said she was excited to have the opportunity to send Mr. Gargaro to the conference as an energy fellow.

She said the Rainey Center serves as a public policy research organization in the areas of energy, national security and innovation and technology as well as an incubator for diverse, non-traditional emerging policy leaders.

“What we want to do is increase democratic legitimacy of our institutions by supporting emerging policy leaders who are women, minorities, people of color and people with cross-cutting political identities in their growth as leaders in their field,” Ms. Hunt said. “We help people like David, who are forging new careers in policy through mentorship and publication opportunities.”

GSPM Director Lara Brown said she is impressed that Mr. Gargaro had the opportunity to address the European Parliament in Brussels. “We are proud that he has sought to put his passion into practice and make a difference in politics,” Dr. Brown said.

She said Mr. Gargaro’s journey through GSPM serves as an example of what the school is now offering to better train students about global politics. She cited the school’s Global Residencies Program, which offers short-term study abroad courses in international cities on the forefront of global politics and business. The program will offer residencies in Canada, China, South Africa and Washington, D.C., this academic year.

Mr. Gargaro, who will graduate in the spring, has participated in the trips to South Africa and Brazil and will be going on visits to China and Canada.

Though he said energy policy may not be his last stop in politics, the issue has created an avenue for him to explore a global issue.

 “I really want to focus on global solutions to problems,” he said. “I'm making the most out of being able to travel to other countries to see how their governments function.”