Richard Saines, Leading Climate Change Lawyer awarded Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite
Remarks by Consul General of France, Vincent Floreani on the occasion of the presentation ceremony of the distinction of Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite to Richard Saines, leading climate change lawyer on December 3, 2016.
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to the French Residence for this wonderful occasion of presenting Mr. Richard Saines with the insignia of “Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite”. Before proceeding with the ceremony, I would like to say a few words about the award I have the privilege of bestowing upon you, dear Rick Saines.
The National Order of Merit is one of France’s highest distinctions awarded to exceptional individuals for their accomplishments and outstanding services rendered to France. This award was founded by President Charles de Gaulle and has been bestowed upon French citizens and foreign nationals alike including distinguished statesmen, scientists, academics, artists, and executives.
You are, dear Rick, one of the most active proponents of climate change awareness, sustainable development, and renewable energy resources here in Chicago, and in the United States. As a leading lawyer in this field and head of the North America Climate Change and Environmental Markets Practice group of Baker & McKenzie, you have made it your life’s work to educate, advise, and affect positive change through environmental law. You have faced the overwhelming challenge of a rapidly evolving world head on, with dignity and distinction, paving the way to a more resilient, adaptable, and sustainable future for everyone on the planet.
Doing so, you not only work for the environment but also for peace. Climate disruption leads to recurring flood or long-term drought, impeding agriculture in particular in developing countries, and leading to migrations, internal conflicts, fights for water and other resources. That’s why fighting climate change is a top priority for France. I commend your efforts not only as an environmental lawyer, but as a true agent for world security.
But where does this passion for the environment come from? I hear your mother thinks it could have started as early as 3 or 4 years old, the time when she challenged a developer to save a wooded area behind your house. You were featured in the local newspaper wearing a cowboy hat and became known as “Ricky the Cowboy” who helped his mom save the woods.
You also lived in Hawaii for a few years, and your love for nature no doubt blossomed on this beautiful island.
At a young age, you began playing the drums and developed an affinity for music. In college you combined music with your love for nature, and with your band, staged a benefit concert raising awareness around several causes, and your push was for the environment. After a year living your dream as a rock star, you decided to pursue a different path, a path that would lead you to where you are today. You decided to focus on saving the planet; a cause that would become your expertise. You are driven by the idea of building a better future for your children Sophie and Ryan, for our children, for all of us and for generations to come.
Not only are you a dynamic advocate of the environment in your professional life, you also do your part as an individual and private citizen by striving to minimize your carbon footprint every day. You drive an environmentally-friendly car, and you are a vegan. Well, mostly vegan, except when you are eating French food.
Indeed, you have a deep appreciation for my country that started when you were 12, on your first trip to France with your father and brother. Since then, you have grown fond of French food and have come a long way from ordering steak tartare, realizing it was raw, and asking the waiter to take it back and make it a hamburger. You’ve learned to enjoy les petits plaisirs français like enjoying a glass of wine with your dinner or a pain au chocolat in the morning. It is true that you don’t speak much French yet, but don’t worry, we’ll get you there.
Dear Rick, your reputation in the renewable energy sector and carbon market has earned you accolades both in the United States and globally, having been recognized as a Leading Lawyer in Climate Change by the renowned Chambers and Partners guides for the last six years. You and the team at Baker & McKenzie are without a doubt at the forefront of climate change cooperation. You were invaluable at the COP 21 conference in Paris last year, where you joined government and civic leaders and experts from over 190 countries, in the goal of achieving a legally binding and universal agreement on climate. France is ever grateful for your contributions to the success of the Paris Agreement which entered into force on November 4th of this year. This is a critical step forward in achieving global outcomes on climate change. The important work continued at COP 22 in Marrakech, where Baker & McKenzie acted as special legal advisers to the COP Presidency of the Kingdom of Morocco. First with France, and now with Morocco, dear Rick, you truly embody the spirit of cooperation.
Time and time again, you have proven to be a dear friend to France. You were instrumental in organizing FACTS (French AmeriCan Climate Talks) in 2014, a series of discussions organized by the French embassies of Canada and the United States. And you are an active supporter of French initiatives in Chicago and throughout the US. You made it possible for the Ambassador to speak in several cities and raise awareness about climate disruption, ahead of Paris Climate Conference.
Dear Rick, your professional success and experience acquired on a topic that is of high priority to France, your readiness to support French projects, and your lifelong mission to ensure a sustainable future for us all, are all reasons for which you deserve this distinguished award.
Au nom du Président de la République française, j’ai le plaisir de vous faire Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite.