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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)