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Handed out by Climate Action Network in full-on burlesque fashion before an audience of hundreds, the award served to shame the nation judged to have done the “best” job of undermining the negotiations on any given day.
On the last day, Saudi Arabia won for—among other dastardly maneuvers—attempting a last-minute gambit to force out of the treaty a global warming limit of 1.5 degrees, despite the consensus that had coalesced around that target temperature.
Today we deliver the COLOSSAL FOSSIL – for the country that has done the most to do the least at #COP21 and it goes to…Saudi Arabia!!
— Fossil of the Day (@FossiloftheDay) December 11, 2015
— CAN-International (@CANIntl) December 11, 2015
There was also the Ray of the Day Award, which acknowledged acts of de-carbonizing courage. Maldives and the Philippines—both island nations and members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum—received a Ray for promoting language that would ensure that nations return to the table in 2018 with more ambitious targets.
— Green.TV (@green_tv) December 1, 2015
Taking place on a dinky, plywood platform in the back of Building 4, the awards ceremony not only made international news but, according to several longtime COP21 observers I spoke with, seemed truly to influence the course of the negotiations.
Appeals to shame are powerful. As is positive reinforcement.
Now that the world has shifted from the urgency of framing, drafting and revising the first global binding contract on climate change to the ongoing challenge of implementing, actualizing and operationalizing it, I suggest we keep the pressure up by continuing on with these awards.
Further, I’d like to propose a third award category: one that would be bestowed upon those who claim to be climate champions but whose actions show otherwise. Which is to say, we need a high-profile trophy that recognizes political figures (or organizations) who self-identify as rays of light but who are actually cleverly disguised chunks of carbon.
A fossil in solar clothing, so to speak.
Let’s call it the Climate Pretender Award, given to those who—for the purposes of attaining admiration, influence, grant money or a political legacy—best mimics the speech of a world climate leader while making precious little effort to keep fossil fuels in the ground, uncombusted.
My candidate for the inaugural Climate Pretender Award is California Gov. Jerry Brown.
— The Climate Group (@ClimateGroup) December 12, 2015
While in Paris, Gov. Brown and members of his administration gave one self-congratulatory presentation after another that held up California as a model of climate leadership for the world to emulate—including how the state manages emissions from manure. (Manure and landfills were the topics senior advisor to the governor, Cliff Rechtschaffen, chose to discuss as a member of a COP21 panel on methane).
But not a word was spoken about the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in Porter Ranch near Los Angeles, which, since Oct. 23, has been spewing 50,000 kilograms (= 110,000 pounds) of methane per hour into the air from a pipe that no one knows how to fix. The single leak alone is the greenhouse gas equivalent of six coal-burning power plants and nullifies hundreds other state-based efforts in California—including those directed at cows and landfills—to clamp down on greenhouse gas emissions.