A Little Brinksmanship, Please: Greening Embassies Calls for Competition, Not Cooperation
Last night, at the Dutch Embassy in wooded Forest Hills, a bunch of diplo-types got together to do what they do best: Sign toothless pledges and pat themselves on the back. This time, it was the District of Columbia Diplomatic Missions and International Institutions Environmental Performance, Climate, and Sustainability Pledge, which basically commits them to "strive," "encourage," and "promote" green stuff on their campuses and within the District as a whole.
The whole international institutions getting enviro-friendly thing isn't all that new; the D.C. Greening Embassies Forum has been around for a couple years now (though if Facebook is any indicator, its active membership is limited to European nations, plus Singapore). But Vince Gray's administration is stepping up its outreach, working with several embassies on stormwater management, for one example. It's the least they can do, really: Foreign missions often have massive grounds that are closed off to the public and contribute no tax revenue to the District. The Greening Embassies Forum hosts events to share knowledge and cooperate on sustainability initiatives, blah blah blah.
At the session before the pledge-signing, though, the theme that kept coming up was competition: Finnish Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde made sure to emphasize, several times, how proud she was to have the first LEED Gold certified embassy in D.C. (it does have very efficient bathrooms). Subtext: The Dutch Embassy had only attained silver. "Are we all going to give more competition to Finland?" the moderator coaxed the audience during the Q&A session. "Or leave it to the Dutch and the Finns themselves?" The British and Canadian embassies, naturally, piped up with their contributions.
The problem, right now, is that it's pretty hard to know which embassies are doing what, sustainability-wise. The existing ones won't be subject to D.C.'s new requirement that new private buildings be LEED certified, and most will be too small to be required to disclose their energy usage, which the District Department of the Environment recognizes will be a powerful tool in shaming large landowners into getting more efficient.
But if each of D.C.'s embassies—beyond the 51* that voluntarily signed the pledge—were asked to contribute information on certain sustainability metrics, the city could put together a scorecard that would rank each embassy's behavior. We all know how humans respond to rankings, especially nations with an interest in one-upping each other. Is the German Ambassador really going to tell Berlin that France ate its environmental lunch?
Meanwhile, no embassy has bought a Capital Bikeshare station yet. There's still time to be the first!
Photo from flickr user DutchEmbassyUS.
* CORRECTION, Monday, 9:45 p.m. – 51 embassies actually signed the pledge, rather than the 21 originally printed. The full list is after the jump.
The Embassy of Australia
The Embassy of Belgium
The Embassy of Botswana
The Embassy of Bulgaria
The Embassy of Cameroon
The Embassy of Canada
The Embassy of the Republic of Croatia
The Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus
The Royal Danish Embassy
The Embassy of Ecuador
The Embassy of Estonia
The Embassy of the Republic of the Fiji Islands
The Embassy of Finland
The Embassy of France
The Embassy of Germany
The Embassy of Greece
The Embassy of Haiti
The Embassy of Honduras
The Embassy of Hungary
The IFC, a member of the World Bank Group
The Embassy of India
The Embassy of Ireland
The Embassy of Israel
The Embassy of Italy
The Embassy of Japan
The Embassy of the Republic of Korea
The Embassy of Latvia
The Embassy of the Principality of Liechtenstein
The Embassy of Lithuania
The Embassy of Luxembourg
The Embassy of Malta
The Embassy of Mexico
The Embassy of the Principality of Monaco
The Embassy of Nepal
The Royal Netherlands Embassy
The Embassy of New Zealand
The Embassy of the Philippines
The Embassy of the Republic of Poland
The Embassy of Romania
The Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia
The Embassy of Switzerland
The Delegation of the European Union to the USA
The Embassy of the Slovak Republic
The Embassy of South Africa
The Embassy of Sweden
The Embassy of Trinidad & Tobago
The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates
The Embassy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
The Embassy of Uruguay
The World Bank, a member of the World Bank Group
United Nations Environment Programme (RONA)