Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Tasked with assessing the achievements of others, a jury that includes IPCC chairman Pachauri heaps honour on one of its own.
awards ceremony video
This past week, another sustainability summit was held in New Delhi in a five-star hotel that brags about its posh address and luxurious rooms. I’ve written about this annual event before, because the man in charge, Rajendra Pachauri, happens to be chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Since 2013, the summit has given out two awards named for the late economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen. According to a sympathetic online biography, Georgescu-Roegen’s work has been “generally ignored by mainstream economics,” but has nevertheless become “a cornerstone for the fields of ecological and evolutionary economics.”
The two honours available are the Unconventional Thinking Award and the BioEconomic Award – as confirmed by the original award announcement and the nomination form. A procedures document says that, if no one is nominated, no award is issued.
During last week’s conference, the order of those two names was switched. The audience saw Pachauri’s first and Daly’s second:
The BioEconomic Award wasn’t given out on that occasion. Deserving individuals are apparently difficult to find, even though this is only year number three.
Nevertheless an entirely new honour, recognizing Lifetime Achievement, made its debut. This is a problem because the official nomination form made no mention of such an award and nothing in the procedures document gives jury members the authority to circumvent the usual nomination process.
In other words, rather than following the rules, jury members cozily decided that one of their own members deserved to be fêted. And so he was.
In the awards ceremony video that appears at the top of this post, no one mentions the awkward fact that Herman Daly is a permanent member of the awards jury. No rationale is provided that might explain or legitimize this dubious decision. Instead, one gets the feeling that this is Pachauri’s fiefdom and, since he’s OK with this decision, so is everyone else.
Daly belongs to the “post growth” school of thought. He is the author of Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development, has been a senior economist with the Environment Department of the World Bank, and is the recipient of several other awards.
There is no doubt that, in the circles in which he moves, Daly is considered both eminent and influential. But the fact that his academic bio tells us he “has served on the boards of directors of numerous environmental organizations” suggests he may be an activist first and a scholar second.
In any case, while serving on the jury for the Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen Awards, both Daly and Pachauri appear to have been party to a gross violation of its procedures. Neither of these men apparently sees anything wrong with a small group of people heaping honours on one other.
Does next year’s Lifetime Achievement Award already have Pachauri’s name on it?