Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

More Dubious Eco Laureates

Green energy lobbyists pretending to be eco prize winners have signed a climate change declaration. Its real purpose is to secure more green energy funding.


A climate declaration says Keith Wheaton-Green was the 2008 Sustainable Energy Champion. But websites say Kate Hall won this award (click).

Earlier this week, a full-page ad in the international New York Times presented us with a climate declaration. We were advised that it had been signed by 160 of the “world’s environmental prize winners.” A UK newspaper  dubbed them “eco-laureates,” no doubt because an accompanying press release told us these “environmental laureates” were “all winners of major environmental awards” (my italics).

Elsewhere, I’ve explained that this claim is untrue in several instances. But before we take a second pass through the list of 160 names, it’s worth noticing that the ad made no attempt to persuade either the public or governments. Instead, it was aimed at wealthy individuals and foundations.

The ad tells them that all the other charitable works currently gobbling up dollars will be “devalued or even destroyed” by climate change. Therefore, such dollars should be redirected. According to the ad:

the world’s philanthropic foundations, given the scale of their endowments, hold the power to trigger a survival reflex in society, so greatly helping those negotiating the climate treaty;

More funding will magically trigger a “survival reflex” which will then somehow assist those involved in UN climate negotiations.

This sounds positively wooly unless you read the press release, which explains that the European Environment Foundation – which arranged for the publication of the ad – now intends to contact foundations directly, “asking them to use their financial power to create a tipping point in climate action.” Said tipping point will be achieved, apparently,

  1. By investing directly in clean energy companies and low-carbon projects;
  2. By withdrawing investments from fossil fuel companies or campaigning as shareholders for them not to develop new reserves;
  3. By making grants to support clean energy start-ups and stimulate the development of low-carbon markets.

So this is really a campaign to secure more money for “clean” energy projects. And it is a campaign that stinks of self-interest. For example, the ad advises us that signatory Michael Eckhart won a “Skoll Award” in 2008. Is this a major environmental prize? Hardly.

Officially, he was recognized as a “Skoll Entrepreneur” after he formed the American Council on Renewable Energy – a green energy lobby group.

So the Skoll Foundation, which is interested in “a sustainable world of peace and prosperity,” pats a lobbyist on the back via an entrepreneur award. On that basis, the guy then participates in an advertisement that says he’s an “environmental prize winner.” And the purpose of the ad is – ta da! – to secure more funding for green energy.

Did I mention that Eckhart is now the global head of environmental finance for Citigroup – which describes itself as “the leading global bank”? Here’s one of the planet’s most powerful bankers, posing as an environmental prize winner, calling on wealthy foundations to lavish billions on an industry for which he himself has a history of lobbying. It’s enough to make your head hurt.

In this 2008 photo, Eckhart is second from the right. On the far left we find Bernard McNelis, another signatory of this ad:


From the 2013 book, Solar Power for the World. Click to see original.

McNelis is a founder of IT Power, “a World leading renewable energy consultancy firm.” He has served as both a director and a vice-president of the International Solar Energy Society – another green energy lobby group.

The ad tells us McNelis is an “environmental prize winner” because he received the “Robert Hill Award” in 2006. Its full name is the Robert Hill Award for the Promotion of Photovoltaics for Development. Rather than being a prominent eco prize, this absurdly obscure award is bestowed “by the world [solar power] community” on its own members – apparently in recognition of their promotional skills.

In this case, too, we have a lobbyist posing as a major environmental prize winner, signing a declaration that turns out to be a shameless exercise in lobbying.

Then there’s Juliet Davenport. She’s the founder of Good Energy, the first company “to offer purely renewable electricity to UK households.” According to her corporate bio, she is

an influential figure whose opinions are helping to shape government policy and make their mark on the future of renewable energy in the UK.

In other words, Davenport is a green energy insider. In 2013, on the recommendation of UK Prime Minister David Cameron, she become an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) along with more than 200 others. As the royal website explains:

Valuable service is the only criterion for the award, and the Order is now used to reward service in a wide range of useful activities. [bold added]

At the same time that Davenport received her OBE for “services to Renewable Electricity Supplies,” a newspaper theatre critic received one for “services to the Theatre,” and a jewellery designer received one for “services to the Jewellery Industry.” The ad published in the New York Times tells us Davenport is one of “the world’s environmental prize winners.” So which prestigious eco prize did she win? Why, the OBE of course.

So a politically well-connected woman receives a government award. Pretending that that government award makes her one of “the world’s environmental prize winners,” she signs a public declaration aimed at increasing the money available to the very industry in which she herself is a mover-and-shaker. Cozy, n’est-ce pas?

Martin Almada is another signatory. In 2005, the European Association for Renewable Energy – yet another green lobby group – gave him a prize, This apparently transformed him into a “major environmental award” winner.

And let us not overlook signatory Keith Wheaton-Green. Apparently we should take his opinions seriously because he’s the 2008 “South West Sustainable Energy Champion.” Except that he’s not.

We all know that the runner-up in a beauty contest doesn’t get to wear the crown. Are the rules really that different in the South West of England? Regen SW – a regional not-for-profit organization that works to “build political, community and public support” for green energy – gave out eight prizes in 2008.

Kate Hall was named South West Sustainable Energy Champion that year. Wheaton-Green and another person were runners-up.

In sum, therefore, as a PR exercise, a green energy organization in a corner of the UK distributes eight prizes. Never mind that these are hardly major environmental awards. In this case, the salient point is that Wheaton-Green didn’t receive one.

Yet in the pages of the New York Times this week, we’re told otherwise.


to be continued

Part 1: About Those Eco Laureates
Part 2: More Dubious Eco Laureates
Part 3: Saving Civilization: 2009 vs 2015
Part 4: Who Signed the Climate Declaration?

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