By Rajendra Shende16 September 2010he
more I reflect on the 23 impressive years of the Montreal Protocol,
the more I realize what far-reaching lessons it holds for the global
environment agreements of today. The crises facing us at the end
of the first decade of the 21st century require action on an even
greater scale than the world's commendable response to the ozone-depletion
emergency. The Montreal Protocol transformed a potential catastrophe
into a golden economic opportunity. Having listened to the sound
and fury of the international climate talks, the ozone messages
are worth noting.
The intense reverberations: The Montreal Protocol is not simply
a multilateral global accord designed to get rid of ozone-depleting
substances (ODS). To define it like that would be to describe the
telescope simply as a tube with a lens on each end. As Nobel Laureate,
Mario Molina has said, "The Montreal Protocol is widely considered
the most successful environmental treaty, phasing out almost 100
ozone-depleting chemicals by 97 per cent and placing the ozone layer
on the path to recovery by mid-century. It also is the most successful
climate treaty to date, because chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and most
other ozone depleting substances (ODS) that it has phased out are
The high octane notes: In addition to reducing global consumption
of ODS by 97 per cent, the Montreal Protocol lowered greenhouse
gas emissions by the equivalent of 135 gigatonnes of CO2 during
the period 1990-2010. This can be translated to 11 gigatonnes a
year, four to five times the reductions targeted in the first commitment
period of the Kyoto Protocol. This unprecedented achievement is
even more remarkable given that global GHG emissions have increased
by more than 35 per cent since 1990. The new resonating tunes: In
phasing out the vast majority of ODS, the Protocol has created new
employment opportunities in fields such as recycling, retrofitting,
containment and best practices, as well as the implementation of
energy standards and labelling. A wave of technological innovation
has benefited developing-country enterprises, which have been able
to upgrade their production lines and deploy the latest energy and
resource efficient technologies. Countries like China have been
able to phase out not only ODS but also their inefficient enterprises,
enabling industrial rationalization and the achievement of an economy
The ricocheting waves: Now the ozone layer is well on the path
to recovery, phytoplankton, the bedrock of many marine ecosystems,
are now much better protected from harmful UV radiation. Elimination
of methyl bromide has not only safeguarded the bacteria that are
essential for soil productivity but has also protected farmers from
exposure to a carcinogenic substance. The foundations on which biodiversity
flourishes are now better secured.
Distant thunder: While the Montreal Protocol has achieved much
of what it set out to do, it still has some weighty challenges ahead.
The 2005 IPCC/TE AP Special Report on Ozone and Climate, of which
I was a coordinating lead author, exposed some alarming trends:
- Destruction of ODS banks: The 21 Gt CO2 Eq contained in old equipment
will inevitably seep into the atmosphere in the absence of any significant
destruction effort. The international community has shown how to
bail out financial banks, it now
needs to focus on ODS banks.
- Absence of low-GWP alternatives across certain subsectors: The
pace of development of low-GWP alternatives is not keeping up with
the accelerated HCFC phase-out schedule for developing countries.
Many countries may have no choice but to transition to high-GWP
HFCs to meet their HCFC commitments in the near term. This is particularly
true in the refrigeration and air-conditioning sector.
- Growth of HFCs: The projected growth of HFCs in a business-as-usual
scenarios is alarming. Forecasts indicate that the share of HFCs
in the global fluorocarbon market will jump from 35 per cent in
2008 to 58 per cent in 2018. The 900,000 tonnes that will make up
annual global HFC demand in 2018 is equivalent to over 2 Gt CO2-eq.
The 2005 IPCC/TE AP report makes clear that if high-GWP HFCs become
the primary replacements to HCFCs, then by 2050 the Montreal Protocol
will become a net and significant contributor to climate change:
wake-up call: Today, that distant thunder is a storm at our doorstep.
The reputation of the Montreal Protocol is at stake. Without immediate
action to address these challenges and strengthen the treaty, the
Protocol is in danger of becoming a liability to the global commons.
Stasis could result in the Montreal Protocol being responsible for
the emission of 130-190 Gt CO2-eq. (Velders et al. 2009 estimates
of HFC emissions + ODS Banks). If we consider the reduced energy
efficiency in refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment and appliances,
this figure would be much higher.
While we are justified in celebrating the success of the Montreal
Protocol so far, this is certainly no time to snooze.
By Rajendra Shende1 July 2010
There are many reasons why UN workshops do not start
on time. In Seoul, Republic of Korea, the workshop organized for
accelerated phase-out of HCFC started late, because that day was
"Children's day" and it was raining. But then quickly
the house was full with participants.
In the opening statement to the full house I said: "The late
starting of this workshop, has not affected the attendance. With
the full attendance, Korea has demonstrated short-term and long-term
commitment to the environment. Short term, because Koreans want
to assign dedicated priority to the 'domestic environment' by taking
their responsibility as parents and make their children happy by
engaging themselves at home. And long term because, they are committed
to saving the planet so that their children and children's children
will be safe by repairing the ozone hole, and hence they did not
want to miss this workshop on even on children's day".
The mood in Korea in April of 2010 was quite different as compared
to what I saw 21 years back when I visited Republic of Korea for
the first time. In 1989, I was on a "technology search"
mission to Seoul. The Montreal Protocol had been signed and was
just about to enter into force. The private sector in India where
I was working thought of taking the fresh opportunity of getting
new ozone-friendly technologies and remain ahead of the curve. The
Western world at that time was not keen to provide latest and emerging
technologies to the developing countries, so countries like India
turned towards East to explore the technology cooperation and collaboration.
Korea, that time, was just waking up from their 1988 Olympic dream
that Koreans made it happen. The country was upbeat. The river Han,
that cuts across Seoul was clean, restored and beautified. Koreans
were proud of their achievement. Wide and green banks of Han with
its winding walking paths looked like an ecological marvel and jewel
of the capital city of Seoul. Koreans were proud of what they had
achieved and were confident of their emerging position in the world
economy and their image as environment friendly nation. Koreans
had done "soul searching' and translated their dream into realities.
That time I visited KIST- Korean Institute of Science and Technology-
a well known technology centre established in late 1960s to realise
its shining dream of Korean industrialisation. KIST became the crucible
of technology development and symbol of 'rising' Korea. The government
of Republic of Korea was able to reverse the brain drain in 1970s
and bring back brilliant scientists and technologists from USA back
to KIST to rebuild the war torn country. In KIST I discussed with
the technologists there , a two-pronged approach, i.e. first, developing
alternative ozone-friendly technologies as long term measures and
second, making existing ODS-technologies more efficient as developing
countries, at that time, still had more than 20 years to phase out
ODS; and in some applications, such as Halons, ozone-friendly technologies
did not yet exist.
Indeed, the Republic of Korea continued to improve the technology
of halon production to meet essential needs in critical and strategic
area, for example, in defence and aviation till 2009. The Montreal
Protocol, I feel, represented a very practical approach to solve
the global environmental problems through appropriate technology
path ways without any way halting the development. Indeed, it is
a global agreement for sealing the hole, but it also proved to be
'soul searching' for the technology paths in short term and long
This time, in 2010, mood was upbeat too but for another reason.
The current President of Republic of Korea Mr. LEE MYUNG-BAK has
recently launched nation-wide paradigm shift towards " Green
Growth'. In the face of global crisis, the President has proclaimed
that Green Growth with low carbon technology development would be
mainstreamed in the national planning of Korea. He has launched
a new institute called Global Green Growth Institute ,GGGI to serve
as a global "hub" of ideas, new technologies and policies
for the green growth initiative.
Sitting with my old friend from KIST in the original Korean restaurant
in one of those winding pedestrian roads of Dongdaemun Market in
Myeongdong area-my most favourite wandering place after Itaewon-
and sipping my favourite rice wine Soju-Jinro and savouring Bibimpa
with Kimchi, I compared the Korean moods in 1990s and 2010 . We
searched the relevance of institutes like KIST and GGGI , Olympics
and Green Growth, industrialisation and low carbon economy, financial
crisis and political crisis and so on.
spices in bibimbap, flavour of white kimchi and inspiration sparked
by Jinro starts taking me over. I invariably end my stay there with
such Seoul searching.
Rajendra Shende29 June 2010
When the plane prepares to leave the arena of the blue sky and
approaches the tiny lagoons and atolls of the Maldives emerge from
nowhere in the blue waters of the Indian Ocean, the stark vulnerable
beauty of the Earth becomes nakedly evident. The island city Male
from the height looks quite similar to the barricaded and fortified
village of ancient Gaul, made famous in the comic book-series called
only difference is that the unnamed village was surrounded by the
forest and Male is surrounded by the vastness of ocean. The city
is so crowded that only open and green spaces that one can see from
the plane are of a football pitch and national stadium. The people
of Male zealously guard their land, just like the Gaulois of the
first century BC.
in that immense water space dotted with petite floating lands lives
the modern protagonist Asterix, along with his team of modern Gaulois.
He gains superhuman strength when he drinks a magic potion called
'Climate Change', brewed by druids of the post industrial era. After
gulping that magic potion he demonstrates amazing might and power
disproportionate to his modestly built figure. He gathers all his
strength and skills when he encounters with those who caused the
climate change. "I love my country the way you love yours and
hence I would stay here and here only. You cannot take away that
pleasure from me by raising the sea level resulting from your indiscriminate
emissions of GHGs," he tells the modern Roman soldiers and
comforts loving arrogant Julius Cesars of the world.
Asterix is the President of Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed. Yes, he is
the same President who said, "We do not want to leave the Maldives,
but we also do not want to be climate refugees living in tents for
I was on the island of Bandos close to Male for the launching ceremony
for the implementation of the HCFC Phase-out Management Plan called
'HPMP'. The ceremony organized by Maldives in cooperation with UNEP
OzonAction was graced by President Nasheed. That morning on the
coast of island Bandos, I was waiting to greet President Nasheed.
I welcomed and shook hands with him when he emerged out from the
speed boat. His smile was infectious.
He presented me, as a token of appreciation of UNEP's efforts, a
vase made of lacquer that is locally known as "Laajehun"
made from a combination of the juice of trees. I dreamt that this
Asterix must be drinking the magic potions from a similar vase to
get powerful ideas like under water cabinet meetings.
In his brief speech he talked about the importance of phasing out
hydrochloroflurocarbons-HCFCs-in 2020 to match with the year in
which Maldives would become carbon neutral. HCFCs are also GHGs
and hence unless they are phased out, carbon neutrality would not
be complete, he stated. HCFCs being 2000 times more global warming
than carbon dioxide, the case is so evident. 'Stone age did not
disappear because the world ran out of stones. It vanished because
humans were able to develop better and more efficient technology
and more effective tools by using other materials. Humanity at that
time did not wait for the stones to be in short supply. We have
to get rid of fossil fuels without waiting for their reserves to
dry up. We have to use alternative technologies to come out of the
age of fossil fuels". His words were as amazing, as striking
and as powerful as the blows of Asterix after gulping the magic
I am sure the Julius Cesars of the world must be saying - "Ils
sont fous ces Maldiviens"!!
Rajendra Shende17May 2010
"It is a city of blue, red and green. Above you have deep
blue sky, around you there are omnipresent red burnt brick houses
and at distance on the horizon you see green forest", explained
the Minister of Environment of Colombia while describing Bogota.
I was there in April 2010 for the regional workshop which was opened
by the Minister. Mr Carlos Costa Posada is an unusual Minister of
Environment in more than one sense. Firstly, he came 45 minutes
before the scheduled time! This is because he was keenly interested
in discussing with me on the 'Climate benefit of Ozone Layer protection
activities'. Secondly, he gave an extempore address although he
had prepared a speech. Thirdly, he was the Minister with engineering
background topped by education in UK.
He sent a message to me through his office early in the morning
at 7 am suggesting a time for a bilateral meeting. That itself was
very unusual. Normally, it is I who seek an appointment with the
busy ministers. And here is the Minister who is seeking to talk
to me. We decided to meet 45 minutes before the scheduled start
of the workshop. During our conversation he told me that he is a
civil engineer. That was good enough for me to strike the right
cords and notes with him. Later, when I was explaining the opportunities
that exist, like 'low hanging fruits' , of reaping the climate benefits
while implementing the Montreal Protocol, he himself added, "and
let us not forget the economic benefit that we will gain by improving
the energy efficiency of air-conditioning machines!". He was
ahead of me.
I also read about innovative thinking of Bogota's former mayor,
Mr Antanas Mockus, who gave Bogotanos a whip of fresh air in their
perception of policies and governance. He is presently very popular
candidate for the Presidential election due within a month. When
I visited Bogota, I read his rather sage-like statement, "If
we do not change culture and ethics and the way of life we cannot
solve the environmental issue." That was quite a departure
from many of us who believe that addressing environmental issues,
first of all, need finances and technologies. His unique character
not only stands out because he was a professor of mathematics but
also because he solves the polynomial 'social equations' with very
direct linear approach of transparency and high ethical standards.
decided to take ride on Bogota's world famous new bus rapid transport
system (BRT) called 'Transmilenio', I realized the importance of
resolving the environmental issues through changing the culture
and ethics of the civil society. Another former Mayor, Mr Penalosa,
who forged the fuel saving system of BRT, and who is now supporting
Mr Mockus in the election, together have formed the Green Party.
Nor technologies, neither finance are of any use unless people change
their culture and ethics. While taking a ride in Transmilenio the
changed culture of commuters was evident.
Mr Penalosa banned parking on sidewalks, built bike lanes, turned
major avenues to pedestrian zones.
In the workshop titled 'cooling without warming' participants from
12 countries discussed cooling technologies without use of HCFCs.
In the conclusion, I said that there was no one technology that
would fit all the needs; there is no 'silver bullet'. One has to
view the technologies with the sense of direction and as per one's
needs. We have to look at the technologies through our own perspective.
World renowned Colombian painter Botero, painted everything fat
and his sculptures of fat people amuse many. I refuse to believe
that Bolero's paintings are about fat people, fat horses or fat
women. They are about the perspective of Botero as he saw it and
as he wanted to convey it.
In the evening along with a couple of friends I went up to the
top of Bogota's hill Monserrate by cable car. From a height of about
10,000 feet I saw below the valley covered by a carpet of lights.
Thought came to my mind that it is a sense of direction that matters.
Columbus missed and reached the destination that he never planned.
By Rajendra Shende, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the evening of 14th April 2010, I felt as if coming
out of clouds and finally getting clear vision. The meeting of the
Executive Committee of the Multilateral Fund for the protection
of the Ozone Layer that I was attending in Montreal, had just approved
the guidelines for financing the projects for HCFC phase out in
the developing countries. I considered that as major step forward
to open the door to pluck low hanging fruits for the climate benefit.
Clearly that presented the unparallel possibility of mitigating
nearly 40 Giga T of CO2 equivalent globally. Compare that with the
mitigation of just 1.5 Giga t of CO2 equivalent due to all the CDM
projects approved till now. Great work indeed.
Then same evening, a bit later, I read on the internet the word
which was spelled as Eyjafjallajokull , and pronounced , later I
was told, as "AY-yah-fyah-lah-YOH-kuul." It sounded like
a word that we utter to do magic tricks for children. But it was
not. It was serious affair. It made the whole situation cloudy,
murky, chaotic and totally uncertain. That in fact is the name of
one of the volcanoes in Iceland that erupted on 14 April 2010 after
a brief pause in the beginning of the year. The eruption spewed
volcanic ash almost up to stratosphere. The air-lines security declared
that it is not safe for the airplanes to fly across the ash that
was spreading and rising fast. That led to closure of the airports
in Europe including Paris. I was grounded in Montreal . What do
I do? Do I read once more the financing guidelines for HCFC phase
out ? Or master the pronunciation of Eyjafjallajokull ? And even
if I do both what next?
It was time for my Montreal mooring! Roaming and reflecting on the
banks of river Saint Laurent, imagining the British and French adventures
400 years back in the places close to Place Jacques Cartier, and
in the Vieux Port (old port) along the quiet road of Prom du Vieux
and Rue de La commune.
My favorite place to visit, if time permits, in Montreal is always
the Science Museum on the bank of Saint Laurent. After visit there
and sipping cafe in one of those historic cafes in Place Jacques
Cartier, thought came to me that Nature is mysterious; it is also
a dormant dictator. 'If you human beings on the earth cannot stop
emissions from aeroplanes and disturb my eternal balance, I would
show you how to stop your activities.' this is what mother Nature
was telling us by eruption of the volcano. I spent 3 days in Montreal
reading, among other things, more about volcanoes and its impacts.
Just one year before I joined UNEP in Paris , Mt. Pinatubo erupted
in the Philippines on June 15, 1991, and one month later Mt. Hudson
in southern Chile also erupted. The Pinatubo eruption produced the
largest sulfur oxide cloud of this century. The data collected subsequently
showed that combined aerosol plume of Mt. Pinatubo and Mt. Hudson
diffused around the globe in a matter of months. Eruptions of Mt.Pinatubo
and Mt. Hudson showed a 15-20% ozone loss at high latitudes and
a greater than 50% loss over the Antarctic! Eruption-generated particles,
or aerosols, that provide surfaces upon which chemical reactions
to destroy the Ozone Layer take place. The particles themselves
do not contribute to ozone destruction, but they interact with chlorine-
and bromine-bearing compounds from human-made CFCs. Fortunately,
volcanic particles settle out of the stratosphere in couple of years,
so that the effects of volcanic eruptions on ozone depletion are
short lived. I still have preserved the small volcanic rock of Mt
Pinatubo presented to me by Ozone officer of Philippines when she
met me .
Volcanic ash can also cause global cooling due to reflection of
the sun's rays and also global warming due to addition of Co2. The
Co2 emissions by the volcanoes are quite small as compared to what
human beings emit. But story does not end here.
Some geophysicists in Iceland believe that the Eyjafjallajökull
eruption may trigger an eruption of another volcano- Katla- just
nearby. There are 35 such volcanoes in Iceland, which would cause
major flooding due to melting of glacial ice and send up massive
plumes of ash. On 20 April 2010 Icelandic President said "the
time for Katla to erupt is coming close...we have prepared."
Well, obviously, finalizing guidelines is not enough. Nature has
its own guidelines, which we never understood and will never understand.
We have no time to understand them as we are obsessed with our own
By Rajendra Shende, email@example.com
26 March 2010
'Diplomats & Businessmen' that is the signboard
at Jeddah Airport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia directing the arriving
Diplomats and Businessmen through a special and privileged lane
for passport control and immigration clearance. I had seen such
special lanes only for the diplomats in a number of countries. However
I had never seen a single special lane for both diplomats and businessmen.
Jeddah must be the only airport in the world that equals diplomats
with businessmen, when it comes to passport control. After all,
why not? Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of United Nations
in 1999 at the World Economic Forum said: "..... I told you
about hopes for creative partnership between the United Nations
and the private sector.
..that the everyday work of the United
Nations -- whether in peacekeeping, setting technical standards,
protecting intellectual property or providing much-needed assistance
to developing countries -- helps to expand opportunities for business
around the world." That speech was the starting point for the
launch of the Global Compact Initiative of United Nation's diplomacy.
Enter the expansive office on the top of the tower of Prince Turki
bin Nasser bin Abdul Aziz, President of Presidency of Meterology
and Environment, from his office on the top floor one can see far
flung Jeddah and the sea beyond corniche. His Royal Highness, dressed
in his traditional and elegant 'thaub', greeted us with confidence
and a rich smile. His attendant hurriedly helped him putting on
formal 'bisht' over his thaub.
I shook hands with him recalling that we had met a few months ago
in Port Ghalib when he visited UNEP's exhibition booth to appreciate
OzonAction's activities to assist developing countries. "I
was a pilot and still enjoy piloting fighter planes", said
HRH and added, "therefore I know your Halon issue very well!"
It was the first time in my tenure as head of OzonAction that I
met a Minister who piloted fighter planes and was even aware of
the Halon issue. I looked around his office; the models of all the
fighter planes that he piloted were on display. One wall of his
attic displayed 10 screens screening different TV channels. At the
centre was Bloomberg showing price trends in oil and gold. Next
to that were environmental channels like Discovery and Planet.
I was in his office to discuss the 'non-compliance' of the Kingdom
of Saudi Arabia with the Montreal Protocol - a rather sensitive
issue for the daring pilot Prince.
I succeeded in getting his full attention to the issue; maybe because
our talk was spiced up with technical issues like air conditioning
and refrigeration which he keenly talked about. When I said that
"the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the countries in the
world to be declared in non-compliance with the Montreal Protocol,"
he looked around to his officials and invited a response. After
his assurance that his country will return to compliance, he listened
to me on the new challenge of HCFCs whose consumption is growing
steeply in Saudi Arabia. It is now one of the ten largest HCFC consuming
countries in the world, mainly because of rapid expansion in construction
of buildings. His Royal Highness made pertinent points about alternative
technologies and also the issue of dumping of HCFC technologies.
We have informed the equipment and technology suppliers that if
they sell us old technologies for which there are alternatives today,
we will sue them in their country," His Royal Highness said
with calm and determined tone of a fighter pilot. The danger of
dumping HCFC technologies to the developing countries is one of
the key factors that would put the country in potential non-compliance.
I thought that the best environmental law practices should include
such legislations to prevent technology dumping. "As we progress,
there is surge in 'Green Business' and awareness about clean energy"
I got convinced that solutions of 'non-compliance' with the Montreal
Protocol do not lie only with Governments, Ministers and Kings.
The response mainly lies with 'businessmen' that deploy cleaner
technologies to be a market place and take steps to prevent dumping
of the old and environmentally damaging technologies.
I now understood the reasons why there is special lane of passport
control that had a sign "Diplomats and Businessmen".
By Rajendra Shende, firstname.lastname@example.org
14 February 2010
'Somewhere in the South Pacific Sea'- that's the phrase used when
one gets lost. I was recently lost somewhere in South Pacific sea.
I was part of the thin line of green land that divides the blue
sky above and Pacific sea below.
When prayers started at the beginning of the meeting, as per the
practices in the region, I was not lost. I was listening carefully
to what the priest standing next to me was praying. "We ask
the heavenly Father, God, to be with us all in this important meeting.
We thank God for bringing the UNEP facilitators to Vanuatu to tell
all of us the importance of the Montreal Protocol. We request the
help of the spirit from above to guide and provide us better understanding
of the Montreal Protocol and to be in its compliance. We ask God
to guide us through UNEP resource persons to implement the action
plan ahead of us, related to the ODS issues. We thank God for the
presence of all stakeholders who are present in the meeting today
and may our contribution benefit people, Vanuatu and the entire
The priest was praying on behalf of all the participants just before
the start of the stakeholders' workshop. The main task before the
meeting was to develop the Road Map to bring Vanuatu -a country
of about 80 islands, back to compliance with Montreal Protocol.
I was in Port Villa, on the Island of Efate, of Vanuatu not far
from two of the world's most powerful tectonic plates, brushing
each other under the ocean creating what is known as the Pacific
Rim of Fire.
Heads bowed, eyes closed, hands clasped all were standing in silence
on that thin green line of volcanic land whose name means 'land
of eternity. The truth is that it is really sky and may be the sea
that would be eternal, but definitely not the land which is waiting
to erupt with exploding fire bombs down below. I had heard similar
prayers before the start of the workshops in Bhutan and Samoa. They
gave spiritual dimension to the solution to the materialistic problem.
The day before the workshop, quite early in the morning, I was
waiting in the Presidential palace. It was a beachside modest complex
of the office and the residence of the President of Vanuatu. The
President was the Minister of Environment when the Montreal Protocol
was signed in 1987. We arrived a little ahead of time and were asked
to wait. We were informed that the President was having morning
prayers. We were later ushered in his office which did not have
air-conditioning. No HCFC was used by the President.
day I was in the village of Takara- a geothermal spot on the west
of the island. We wanted to have a chat with the chief of the village.
His wife asked us to wait as the chief was busy in prayers. When
Allen, the village chief appeared, he took us to the place where
the steam comes out of the earth. His beach side village dries coconut
kernels on the natural heat coming from mother Earth. We then sat
for a quiet lunch in the restaurant nearby. The electricity in the
restaurant was drawn from the wind mill installed on the roof next
to geothermal springs. I wondered if the waste heat from geothermal
springs could be used for the air conditioning of the restaurant
and town-hall of the village by using vapor-absorption refrigeration.
By the decision of the 21st Meeting of the Parties other 194 countries
in the world declared Vanuatu in non-compliance because it did not
have a licensing system under the Montreal Protocol and its consumption
was above its base line by a few kilograms. I thought of telling
this to Allen who spoke English peppered with the local language
-Bislama. Allen was busy in looking at the wind mill and the waves
A thought flashed in my mind: what if every Meeting of the Parties
could start with a prayer. A priest could be invited from 'Somewhere
in South Pacific" and the prayer would start by asking the
"Heavenly Father God to give us the wisdom of Allen who uses
natural heat to dry the natural products, wind energy to give light
and no air conditioning and hence no use of HCFC 22. Request the
Holy Spirit from Takara village, to better understand our compliance
with nature to benefit us and the entire mother Earth."
At dinner the next day, the Minister of Land and Natural Resources
was speaking to me in his "natural" language. "Mr.
Shende," he said in his native French, "yesterday it was
raining heavily in Port Villa, today it is sunny. Today Vanuatu
is in non-compliance. Tomorrow it will be in compliance. That's
the rule of God in South Pacific".
I was convinced that there is very thin line between compliance
and non compliance in south pacific.
By Rajendra Shende, email@example.com
25 January 2010
Bella Centre in Copenhagen is a generously large and copiously
structured conference complex. My first visit to Denmark, a country
with 482 islands, started with a visit to this centre, which is
quite large and looked bit disproportionate to the size of the country.
I decided to keep all what I read of Denmark including its Viking
past, seafare adventures and famous cheeses outside and entered
the Bella Centre. That was month of November in 1992!
It was evening when I stepped in the Bella Centre to register for
the Fourth Meeting of the Parties-MOP- of the Montreal Protocol
on substances that deplete the ozone layer. I was fresh, rather
oven-fresh, in United Nations Environment Programme -UNEP. I was
attending the 4th MOP as the OzonAction Coordinator of UNEP's then
Industry & Environment office. The OzonAction Programme had
just begun its work as Implementing Agency under the Multilateral
Fund of the Montreal Protocol and other funding giants like World
Bank and GEF were watching this small fish swimming effortlessly
in troubled waters.
In fact, my joining UNEP coincided with the launch of the capacity
building programme to assist developing countries to enable them
to comply to the MP. Ours was then a tiny Programme operating from
the Paris office. The glittering and impeccable Bella Center was
a perfect backdrop for the ambitious Fourth Meeting of the Montreal
India and China had just ratified the Montreal Protocol. USA was
already a Party and very much at the centre of gravity of negotiations.
It was post-"Berlin-Wall-falling-down" period. A number
of voices were heard expressing the reality that there were not
just two polarised groups of "developed" and "developing
countries", but also a third group of "economies in transition!"
The ambience was one of confidence and optimism. Having consented,
few months earlier, to a self-assuring and forward looking Agenda
21 in Rio conference which included UN Framework Convention on Climate
On the 23rd Day of November, Her Majesty, Margarethe II , the Queen
of Denmark, arrived for the opening ceremony, and reminded us of
easily forgotten fact that Denmark is a constitutional monarchy.
Mr. Stig Moller, the then Minister of Environment of Denmark-and
now its popular Foreign Minister, said "The Montreal Protocol
must be used to set the trend for international cooperation in other
fields such as 'climate change, biodiversity and hazardous waste'.
He further said "Now is the chance to show that the pledges
to the same earth work at Rio, in the United Nations Conference
on Environment & Development (few months back) were meaningful."
The ministers and high level decision makers from more than 100
countries along with international organizations and industry, industry
associations and NGOs, took determined steps to shape the future
of the then young Montreal Protocol to save the Ozone Layer. There
was total agreement to establish Financial Mechanism to assist the
developing countries, having tested the water two years earlier.
Even total contribution was pledged with operations planned starting
from 1st January 1993. Canada offered to host the Secretariat of
the Multilateral Fund to operationalize Financial Mechanism . Parties
asked those who do not want to contribute shall declare so. An indicative
list of incremental cost for the developing countries was approved.
What more, the countries decided with consensus, irrespective of
their varied social, political and economical positions , to add
Hydrocholorofluorocarbons-HCFCs- and Methyl Bromide as controlled
substances to already agreed list of CFCs and Halons. There phase
out schedules were agreed with firm and legally binding dates .
The rest of 17 years are now a part of the sucess story . The Ozone
layer as per NASA and ESA is on path of recovery.
Come winter of 2009. Same Denmark, Same Copenhagen. Same Bella
Center . Same Her Majesty Queen, Same 482 islands but surrounded
by the sea-levels thqt now risen by few centimetres. Centre is still
not far from ice-shelf of Arctic but now fast disappearing. The
same countries including India, China and USA made impacts in Bella
Cntre but now with a difference. Rising decibel levels and fast
disappearing shelf of mutual trust was visible everywhere. . What
Conference of Parties-COP- came out as post-Kyoto road map, in the
morning of 19th December was simple 3-page Copenhagen Accord with
flexible dates for the commitment to address the defining urgency
of our times. It was noteworthy to note that countries just took
note of it. Looked like Vikings are again on seafare without any
navigation. Some called it embarking on journey towards hope. I
I felt definite change in climate as compared to 1992. There was
literally a sea-change in and around Bella Center. Otherwise Carlsberg
beer tasted the same.
By Rajendra Shende, firstname.lastname@example.org
9 December 2009
Nothing grows there, on the south-west beach of the Red sea, except
fish and colourful corals. The place is designed to be a beach resort
in the desert with its clean lonely beaches, white sands, bottle-green
seawater, soft refreshing and cold wind sweeping across, riding
on the waves of white surf.
My two weeks stay at Port Ghalib, Egypt, attending the international
meeting to discuss the future of the Montreal Protocol on substances
that deplete the Ozone Layer was an experience short of staying
in the monastery. The place is remote, distant, arid, barren, parched
dry, and does not even resemble an oasis, because it does not have
a natural source of freshwater of its own. The fresh water is produced
by desalination of sea water, electricity is produced by diesel
generator, and partly as sequel of the desalination plant, waste
water is treated and recycled to water the small shrubs and replanted
palm trees. Why was this place selected at all for holding such
an international meeting when it is best suited for reflections,
writing memoire or just spend time doing nothing? I mused.
One would have thought of holding such a meeting of "one of
the most successful MEAs" in a European or American city with
rows of cozy restos and lots of entertainment. Recognizing that
it is the first occasion that the Meeting of the Parties to the
Montreal Protocol is being held after each and every country has
now joined and ratified this global accord, it was time for a party,
a time to celebrate. So why hold a party in the desert?
To me it was not just a coincidence. Of course the Government of
Egypt was gracious to host this meeting. But I thought, in a true
sense, it is symbolic a location.
Port Ghalib - name of this desert resort - is a symbol of human
ingenuity. A complete township self sufficient in basic necessity
has been raised in that land of 'nothing'. It was replete with clean,
quiet, roads and modestly built hotels, rising from 'nowhere'. The
Montreal Protocol is also a symbol of human ingenuity. Someone said
that human stupidity knows no boundaries. I could say the same thing
about human ingenuity. It is boundless. Indeed, due to human stupidity
the world deployed man-made CFCs in the 1940s. That brought the
world to the brink of disaster, but it was collective human ingenuity
that has prevented this disaster by deploying alternatives of ozone-friendly
technologies. What more, this human ingenuity has also crossed the
boundaries further to provide unexpected and significant climate
Not far from Port Ghalib, about 200 km to the west, across the
Nile, there is a small village called Kharga, another desert town,
but a living example of non-in-kind technology as alternatives to
CFCs. There stand the houses, the community halls, a mosque and
other buildings designed by one of Egypt's most ingenious architects,
Hassan Fathyt, who used the local natural material for the buildings.
He designed those mud houses in such a way that they do not require
air conditioning, leave alone refrigerants. They are warm in winter
and cool in summer. Most of human history does not know air conditioning
produced with refrigerants. Air conditioning was practiced but without
man made refrigerants.The best period in the history was in the
houses built by architects like Hassan Fathyt.
Port Ghalib and the surrounding area represent not only the past
but also the future direction for humanity. Nature has provided
us with solutions which do not result in global problems. It is
for us to use our ingenuity to search for them and deploy them.
Port Ghalib is an example of boundless human ingenuity . Let us
see if Copenhagen also turns out to be the similar example. We certainly
do not want to be an example of unlimited human stupidity.
By Rajendra Shende, email@example.com
24 September 2009
The world is getting addicted to unsustainable life style. In a
way it strives to sustain the un-sustainability. I am not talking
about the use of fossil fuel only. Take for example CCS- Carbon
Capture & Storage. CCS approach is very simple. The electricity
generating plants would continue to use fossil fuels without any
regrets about climate change. That's because they would reduce or
eliminate emissions by capturing carbon dioxide produced by burning
fossil fuels and storing it underground in the earth's geological
bed rocks. This appears to be a simple way to solve the climate
CCS is now accepted by all. It is the solution to reduce emissions
at least in medium terms. The world has not yet found alternatives
to coal-fired power plants. Coal will continue to take major share
(40 %) as a fuel for generating electricity. No wonder that there
are flurry of the activities in CCS.
Nations of G-8 set the goal to build 20 demo plants by 2010 and
commercialize by 2020. There is already an allocation of US$ 20
billion for such demo plants.
I worked in a production unit that produced hydrogen from methane.
The by-product was CO2. It was absorbed in alkyl amines and then
stripped off, purified and made into dry ice i.e. solid CO2 which
is used for cooling purposes. Stripping CO2 from exhaust stream
is not difficult. And injecting it in the earth is also not intricate.
Long established process of mining sulphur from deep holes drilled
in earth requires injecting steam or air in geological stomach to
eject the sulphur out on the surface. So, the demonstration plants
would be successful. It would need optimisation to reduce the cost,
but certainly it is not a rocket science. The cost of CCS is expected
to be $ 50 - 60 per ton of CO2, and demonstration plants will slow
the cost of about $ 100 per ton.
What we are missing here is that attempting CCS is like sitting
on the wrong end of the branch while cutting it. The CCS itself
will require energy to separate CO2 and injecting deep into the
geological arteries. A power plant with CCS will have to generate
30 % more power just to capture and force CO2 in the earth. Simple
business calculation reveals that electricity cost will go up.
Secondly, CCS-approach sends a strange signal that power plants
would continue to use coal without any regrets because emission
would not go into the atmosphere. Diverting scarce funding and technology
resources for making CCS viable will deprive R & D resources
needed to make renewable energy viable. It is like funding unsustainable
technology to keep sustainable technology from getting matured.
Thirdly, CCS does not reduce GHG emissions, it only delays them.
CO2 if emitted stays in the atmosphere for at least for 50 years.
CCS will store CO2 in the earth for how many years? One day, will
it erupt like a volcano? It is like a land mine - a real time bomb.
We are storing our sins underground and exposing our future generations
to a global disaster.
I wonder why the industry did not think of similar CCS -CFC capture
& storing- in 1987 when the Montreal protocol was signed. That
way the world would have found the way to continue producing CFCs
which were otherwise so useful to human beings. Answer is: the makers
of the Montreal Protocol had rocky belief and sustained commitment
to move forward towards sustainability. They did not want to address
the problem by postponing it. After all how many more Copenhagens
do we have?
By Rajendra Shende, firstname.lastname@example.org
25 August 2009
English surrounded by French! That would be the
description of Nigeria. Surrounded by five nations that speak
French, Nigeria's English not only survived the siege of French
but it also survived the host of more than 500 local languages.
No doubt, English has become the unifying language of the nation.
When I landed at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport of Abuja,
I got a glimpse of linguistic diversity. One of my guests speaking
English with Igbo accent was making fun of his colleague speaking
English with Hausa accent. I could not get to understand the exact
fun part but could guess it very well. In India, the heavy accent
of southern English is the subject of much amusement in the rest
While language is fun, religion in Nigeria is a serious matter.
Depending on who is responding, and where the respondent is living,
the answer to the question of 'which religion is in majority'
will vary. Christianity and Islam are co-hosted with equal importance
in the country. The skyline of Abuja is marked by minarets, domes
and crosses. The biggest dome that one sees from almost any point
in Abuja is, however a natural one called: Aso rock, a 400-metre
monolith that in fact made Abuja to be known as Rock City.
I have never seen the capital of any country which is so centrally
situated. Abuja is a planned city and capital of an oil rich nation
that is faced with serious environmental and poverty challenges.
Oil spills, deforestation, and waste management and of course
climate change and ozone layer depletion
the list is long.
For four days, 39 African countries in face of language barriers,
religious faiths and meridas of environmental challenges, explored
the opportunities to get climate benefits from the Ozone Layer
Protection activities. Such exploration is the emerging trend
in the Montreal Protocol community. The event was the joint meeting
of the French-speaking and English-speaking African countries
represented by their focal points in their respective national
African Countries are awaking to the new reality that single focused
environmental agreement can achieve multitude of benefits not
only for the stratosphere and atmosphere but also 'earthly' benefits
like economic advantage. From now on Nigerians would be able to
see that Economics and Environment are part of the same team in
the football game and not in opposing teams.
I am sure that Nigerians understand this 'goal' much more effectively
because football is the national game, national language and national
religion. It is the solid Aso rock on which Nigerian exploration
By Rajendra Shende, email@example.com
29 June 2009
When markets collapsed and when most of the major banks around
the world went kaput, the governments around the world rushed
to bail out the market. Almost overnight stimulus packages got
prepared, approved by cabinets, politburo, senates, and parliaments
and even by executive order depending on the political governing
system in the countries. Almost in military-like marching order,
all the sermons on virtues of open market economy made a 180 degree
turn around. The goals of zero trade-tariffs and the best practices
of 'leaving the markets to work upon themselves' were found to
be strategically misconceived. In near orchestrated style, the
governments around the world condemned the indulgence in not regulating
the markets enough and ordered the system to intervene, control
and even take over and nationalize the businesses. The intellectuals
in political economy commissioned research and studies on virtues
of monitoring the markets and vices of 'market based economies'
and 'economic which can turn the world into a devastating place
due to 'economic terrorism.'
The speed of response is lightening; the amount
of the packages are as impressive as speed: Read these figures
and bailout and stimulus packages: USA: US $ 800 billion (7% of
Gross Domestic Product -GDP) , Japan: US $ 720 Billion ( 14% of
GDP) , China US $586 billion ( 20% of GDP), EU: US $ 300 billion
(apart from individual EU member states e.g. France US $ 40 Billion)-3%
of GDP - and the list goes on. With those packages enter the 'new
system' -or is it old system but forgotten?-of regulated growth.
The same time when the unprecedented financial crisis
arrived on the scene and when governments started bailing out
banks, the unparalleled Climate Change crisis started emerging
with awakening concerns. It was evident that consequences of Climate
Change would be devastating. Governments commissioned the reports
at their leisurely speed to find out how much it would cost to
avert the crisis. Some even thought that we cannot avert it now,
so why not find the cost of managing the crisis. The governments
had earlier debated the 'bail out' package to come out of the
climate crisis. There was realization that a crisis is now at
the doorsteps, and the floods of impacts are sweeping the world.
The most authentic report was by Lord Stern commissioned by the
British Government. It proposes that one percent of global (GDP)
per annum is required to be invested in order to avoid the worst
effects of climate change, and that failure to do so could risk
global GDP being up to twenty percent lower than it otherwise
But then, there was no bailout, no stimulus package
for climate crisis. The speed of response was glacial. Governments
decided to simply wait for 'Copenhagen' hoping that there will
be 'Hopenhagen'- agreement!
I recall that after the Montreal Protocol on substances
that deplete the ozone layer was signed in 1987, there was a serious
exercise to estimate the size of the package needed for averting
global ozone layer crisis. Financial assistance to the developing
countries was considered essential for the global participation
to protect the ozone layer. These estimates varied fro US$ 2 Billion
to US$ 25 Billion, i.e. up to 0.2 percent of the world GDP. Some
estimates indicated US$ 1.2 billion for the first 8 years. The
governments moved very swiftly and came out with bail out and
stimulus package of US $ 160 million for first 2 years with provision
of increasing to US$ 240 million if more developing countries
joined. I was there in London, as part of the Indian delegation,
to witness the approval of this stimulus package. The stimulus
package has since then worked very successfully over more than
20 years. US$ 3 billions are provided to developing countries
so far and multibillion dollars were spent by developed countries
for their own phase out of ozone depleting substances. Earlier
bail out package resulted not only in setting ozone layer on the
path of recovery but also reaping a multitude of other benefits.
By Rajendra Shende, firstname.lastname@example.org
27 April 2009
Driving from the airport to downtown in Washington
DC, I saw that the blossoming of trees has painted Washington
DC's horizons in shades of white and rose. Those are the spring
colors, colors of hopes, the colors that signal the arrival of
a new season. But it is not only on the trees that I saw the blooming
flowers in DC. I saw, smelled and felt the flowers of hope, colors
of optimism and a whiff of aspiration in the air all around the
ancient district of U street down to the office district of K
street and from Kennedy Center on the banks of the Potomac to
the Washington memorial opposite to Capitol Hill.
In a single day I heard so many important speeches
and was part of discussions at the round table. A Senator, a Governor,
senior officers of the Environmental Protection Agency, White
House Staff of Environmental Council, a Mayor of Berkeley city,
NGOs, officers from regional EPAs including those from California,
Vermont and Maryland, young and experienced administrators
list was long. They had one message in common, one resounding
and resonating tone that echoed all the time. That message and
that tone were of optimism. The fall of climate change was over.
It was definitely a new beginning that heralded the big bounce
and lively leap into spring.
Four years ago I was in the same city to receive
USEPA's 2005 Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award. And here I
was now to receive USEPA's 2009 Climate Protection Award. What
a timing, I thought. Getting the award in ambiance of emerging
and dawning era of hope was rewarding indeed. There was overwhelming
response for the actions to stop climate change. And actions had
started in big way.
This is the country that played a crucial role in
carving out the Montreal Protocol and its Multilateral Fund. That
treaty went on to become one of the most successful treaties of
our times. And this is the country that did not cave in to the
Kyoto Protocol that is now the most talked about treaty of our
times. This is the country that agreed to the principle of common
but differentiated responsibility and accepted to lead the phase-out
under the Montreal Protocol letting the developing countries to
follow. The same country insisted that developing countries like
India and China have to take commitments for the GHG emission
reductions along with the developed countries.
But I saw the change that came about. Number of
states, cities and town and even universities were taking actions
and setting up their own GHG reduction targets without waiting
for India and China's commitments. I could sense that the spirit
of the Montreal Protocol was blossoming in Washington to traverse
the road leading to Copenhagen:
To end my brief speech requested by USEPA just before the award
ceremony I quoted the poem by Robert Frost -American poet:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and II took the one
less traveled by and that has made all the difference.
the walls of the Kennedy Center the following lines said by the
President John Kennedy were carved:
"I am certain that after the dust of centuries
has passed over our cities, we too, will be remembered not for
our victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our
contribution to the human spirit."
I thought it is certain that after the last control
measures of the Montreal Protocol are met, the Protocol would
be remembered not for its success and full compliance but for
the contribution it made and lessons it left behind for humanity
on its journey to reduce climate change.
by Rajendra Shende, email@example.com
9 January 2009
There could not have been a more appropriate place than Panama
City for the workshop on "illegal trade" in environmentally
damaging commodities, i.e. Ozone Depleting Substances-ODS. Panama
City is the symbol of a 'historic passage' that allows trade of
goods transported by ships and cuts down a long and time consuming
journey by about 12,000 kms.
Not very far from the banks of the Panama Canal,
were representatives of 20 countries discussing the mechanisms
to prevent illegal trade as per the control measures of the Montreal
Protocol. I was, on behalf of UNEP as organizer, facilitating
discussions. Even as we discussed, we saw ships approaching and
leaving the Canal. A perfect setting for a workshop of this kind,
The Customs Authorities and the National Ozone Units
of 20 countries shaped up, during the meeting, regional cooperation
to enhance the sharing of information and intelligence on ODS
smuggling. Another 12 months and then these substances will no
longer be produced in the world. Their demand, however, will continue
as they would be needed for servicing in the existing equipment.
The illegal trade by smugglers could risk the success achieved
so far under the Montreal Protocol.
'Canal'- as per one of the definitions in the dictionary
- is 'water-ways' that allows water to flow from one end to the
other. In that sense, the Panama Canal is not a canal! This 80
km stretch of water body connects the Atlantic and the Pacific
Oceans. But it links the water only in a 'figurative' sense! The
Panama Canal is a mechanism that brings ships from one water body
to the other by using buoyancy of water. Simple school-taught
principle of buoyancy is used to raise ships from one ocean to
a freshwater lake called 'Gatun Lake' - 28 meters above sea level
and then lowered again to the sea level of another ocean. In the
whole process, water from the lake is drained down into the two
oceans. To my engineering mind, it is evident that the sea water
from two oceans never meets and surely does not flow into each
The water from the rainforest comes into the lake
and then into the oceans through the Canal, as the huge ships
move from one end to the other. Such operation requires additional
water from the rainforest to feed the lake. By 2015 the canal
would be expanded. 'Re-circulation' of fresh water has been planned
in case water in the lake is inadequate for the expanded canal.
. A long-term planning for shortening the trade route!
Sitting on the banks of the Canal in the evening,
my mind hovered over the history of the Canal construction and
human struggle to use nature for trading. Nature is used in a
most sustainable manner to trade between East and West. Water
from the rainforest is used creatively for transport. Have we
ever calculated how much carbon dioxide emissions from a ship's
engine are avoided in such short cut trips by using natural and
renewable resources? Had the Panama Canal built today, it would
have been eligible for CDM under the Kyoto Protocol. It is important
to make an assessment of water transport to avoid long journeys
and save fuel as well as reduce emissions. IPCC should assess
such mitigation option.
At the same time of the Panama workshop a much larger
global meeting took place in Poznan, Poland on Climate Change.
As I surfed the internet to read latest developments there, I
felt, that the 'climate-ships' in Poznan were raised and lowered
by using buoyancy of negotiations. There was not much of a forward
movement though and climate-ships appeared to be stagnant. Short
sighted arguments inhibited a long-term vision. In contrast, the
discussions in Panama were highly action-oriented, ready to go,
moving forward with a long-term vision.
In my chemical engineering study, I learned a term
'cannel'. Cannel, as per the dictionary is a bituminous coal burning
with a bright flame. It emits lots of carbon dioxide. 'Poznan
cannel' was quite visible due to its bright arguments. I looked
up across the Panama Canal as the sun was setting into the ocean.
Another day was over.
by Rajendra Shende, firstname.lastname@example.org
23 December 2008
Doha is a quiet city in a land that protrudes in the Arabian Gulf,
a perfect example of a peninsula. Leave aside the noise of building
construction and the hustle of the National Market where most
of the immigrant workers do their shopping and transfer money
to their homeland, the rest of the city is as quiet as camels
in Omani Market. Even more visited Souq Waqef (Old Market) presents
a quiet scene with Arabian backdrop. Its fascinating terraces
and networks of complex narrow alleys are bustling with evening
crowd that is far from noisy. Quaffing Eshariq Coffee with shisha
in Souq Waqef is an experience in solitude in the middle of a
swarm of visitors and Doha residents.
Two weeks of my stay in Doha was for a series of
meetings on the Montreal Protocol. Every morning before going
for the meeting jogging along Al Corniche - a 7 km semi-circular
beach road, neatly lined with lush green lawns and palm trees-
is a vibrating experience. The sea is as silent as Doha City itself,
the waves are probably quietened by reclaimed land.
Doha is more known for the 'trade talks' held here
under the World Trade Organisation (WTO). 'Doha Round' is the
buzz words in the international trade negotiations replete with
arguments on perverse subsidies, unfair competition, woes of African
countries and globalization. In this context, negotiations on
the multilateral environmental treaty-the Montreal Protocol- sounded
more like a docile 'model UN' event in schools! 16 years back,
in 1992, on a similar seaside, in Rio de Janeiro, 'Agenda 21'
took shape. The principles of 'common but differentiated responsibilities'
and 'polluter pays' were laid down. The developed countries were
put on the spot as responsible for environmental degradation.
Interestingly, parallel to the Meeting of the Parties
(MOP) to the Montreal Protocol in Doha, an urgent and desperate
gathering of world leaders called G-20, was taking place in Washington
D.C. It was not about environmental degradation but about financial
degradation. Heads of the developing country states were telling
developed countries that they (developed countries) are responsible
for the present day financial crisis and hence they should take
a lead in resolving it! For a moment, I thought, it sounded like
multilateral environmental negotiations - except that the word
'environmental' was replaced by 'financial'. They were almost
on the verge of stating 'financial polluter has to pay through
bail out!' That G-20 Summit made a lot of noise all around the
Compared to such noise, the decibel levels in MOP
in Doha were extraordinarily low. Developed countries, in the
midst of historically unparalleled global financial crisis, agreed
to replenish the Multilateral Fund at USD 490 million, at the
same level as the previous replenishment, and what more - the
developing and developed countries agreed to derive additional
climate benefits from actions to protect the Ozone Layer. A unique
cooperative action was evident in the environmental sector when
a unique global crisis was facing the financial sector.
The press did not report much on this historic event
in Doha. This Doha round went in silent mode. As quiet as Doha
itself. Amidst noisy reports on the global financial crisis.
by Rajendra Shende, email@example.com
3 November 2008
'Happo-en' is a traditional, calm and silent garden in Tokyo,
surrounded by crowded and noisy modernity. It looked like oasis
of tranquility in a desert of milling humanity. Quite a contrasting
setting! UNEP OzonAction recently held a workshop there entitled
'Destruction Technologies for Ozone Depleting Chemicals'. The
contrast was even more obvious in the title of the workshop that
took place in that quiet, creative and inspiring surrounding.
The garden has a 200 year old bonsai and the name-Happo-en- literally
means 'beautiful from all angles'. We were discussing the various
destruction technologies in 'Happo-en'!
I noted such streaks of contrasts almost everywhere
in Tokyo. There were Kimono-clad Japanese ladies hurrying for
a marriage ceremony accompanied by girls dressed in western styles.
In Tokyo, one of the most intriguing sights for me is a Japanese
wife dressed in traditional Kimono, with a hairdo style of the
last century, walking elegantly with her husband dressed in a
full western style suit that includes a felt hat and triangular
appearance of a velvet handkerchief popping out of his pocket!
I always felt that the roots of Japanese initiative
3 R - Reduce, Re-use & Recycle - are embedded in this contrasting
life-culture of Japanese. 'Embracing the modernity without sacrificing
the tradition' requires the culture of 'recycle'. It is not only
recycling of plastics that the Japanese thought important, but
also recycling of the traditional elements in modern living that
they considered essential.
Mr Fukuoka, a modern day environmentalist who wrote
his famous 'One Straw Revolution, 'about the agricultural practices
in post-war Japan , certainly had in mind farming in harmony with
nature. Practice of nature-farming requires reducing external
input to zero by recycling and reusing nature's products! The
new plants sprout from the buried mass of dead leaves. My firm
belief is that the Japanese environmental movement of today is
deeply rooted in the ancient Buddhist philosophy of 'reincarnation'.
May be 3 R should be upgraded to 4 R: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle
Back to Paris by the end of September, I was listening
to the early morning bulletins of BBC. The Tokyo stock exchange
index - the first in the world to start its daily business - was
reported opening with further downward trends. The American sub-prime
crisis is now taking its toll all over Asia. The world leaders,
it was reported, were talking about 'new best practices' i.e.
'regulated open markets' and 'capitalism with controls', 'free
markets with restriction'. I realized that the Montreal Protocol's
success so far is not based on open ended voluntary measures but
on setting up regulations and licensing systems and implementing
them to reach the targets. The elimination of Ozone Depleting
Substances was not left to the market mechanisms. It was based
on global agreement and strict national regulations. In the midst
of open market economy, the Montreal Protocol adopted the principles
of well 'regulated' implementation to meet the compliance.
In today's crisis filled world, there is urgent
need to extend '3 R' principle, not only to 4 R, but 5 R!! -Reduce,
Re-use, Recycle, Reincarnate and Regulate!
by Rajendra Shende, firstname.lastname@example.org
14 October 2008
16th September 2008, early morning in Tokyo. I woke
up on the 8th floor of my hotel room when the building shook.
I realized that it was one of those earthquakes in Japan. I had
the feeling of sitting on the top branch of a tall tree being
swayed by heavy winds .My instincts were confused. I called the
receptionist of the hotel and asked, "Is there an earthquake?
What should I do? " I was expecting an answer like "Run
down the staircase, or get under the table!" Instead, a cool
Japanese response came, "No, it's nothing, have a nice day!'.
I started feeling very childish. My whole life was in the hands
of Japanese engineers who constructed this 'quake-proof' skyscraper.
And I was standing there absolutely still, asking a helpless question
which evoked equally a helpless response. I thought, may be one
day, God will punish us for scrapping his sky!
that week of 16th September, it was not the only tremor that shook
me. In a press release of WMO on 17th September, I read, "The
Ozone hole is larger than seen last year." Though I knew
that the ozone hole will not disappear so soon, the information
in the WMO press release was like the earth tremor that I felt
on the morning of 16th September. We all know that CFCs already
released into the atmosphere for the last 60 years are making
their upward journey like advancing war battalion. And UNEP's
Science Assessment Panel consisting of 310 scientists from 34
countries inform us that even after total phase out of CFCs in
2010 we will not see recovery for the next 50 - 60 years! God
is having us pay up for our sins in the past. My Indian friend,
after reading the WMO press release asked me, "Is it true?
What to do?" I responded, "No, nothing, have a nice
world market too went down the hill like rolling stones during
that week. I felt tremors every day of that week when I surfed
the internet. Billons were getting lost every day. I said to myself
"maybe God is punishing the
markets for their greed!" I called my son who is a financial
analyst in Dublin and asked him "What to do? I still feel
these market tremors!" May be he was expecting the down fall
the way I expected larger Ozone hole. Prompt came the response
from him, "No, nothing, have a nice day!".
by Rajendra Shende, email@example.com
25 July 2008
Taking a tour in the Champagne region, not very
far from Paris, is an exciting experience, as exciting as the
taste of champagne! The mounds and hillocks receiving the angled
sun light and lined with green vineyards dotted with small churches
is a site to cherish. Last week I was there to meet my friend
who owns a small vineyard and sells his 'Chardonnay' to a large
vinery which makes famous French champagne.
But we did not discuss the taste of champagne this
time, we discussed global warming, instead! . In France, the thermometer
of global warming has nothing to do with measuring atmospheric
temperature nor it is correlated to the measuring of rising temperature
of sea-water. Instead, it measures the timing of the 'vendange'
- grape harvesting.
My friend told me that the first day of vendange
- a time to celebrate for the vineyard owners and the villagers
there - is advancing in the last few decades. In the 80s it was
in mid October, in the 90ies it was mid September and he fears
that this year it may be as early as mid August. Due to global
warming the grapes are maturing early.
For French people this has been the most visible
impact of global warming. The 'canicule' - heat wave - that resulted
in more than 15,000 deaths in 2003, is probably considered as
the result of a freak climate phenomenon. But the shocking trend
in early flowering, early maturing and early vendange has definitely
left its footprint and shaken French vineyard owners.
Its not just vineyard, the cherry trees in my garden,
west of Paris, blossomed quite early this year. My neighbor's
cherry tree blossomed even earlier which gave rise to some sort
of curiosity or even a neighborly jealousy! Two weeks ago my cherries
became ripe, became darkish red and were savored by birds who
had an early feast.That was much earlier than normal.
Nature is adjusting to climate change, flourishing
earlier than normal, birds are having an early dinner, the leaves
of cherry trees have already started falling instead of in September
or October. Of course, there is a 'fall-out' of early autumn.
The cherries in my garden were smaller and less juicy, nevertheless
trees are getting ready for early wintery sleep!!
UNEP's mandate includes the assessment of the state
of environment of our planet and providing early warning. To me
the one who has heeded this early warning is nature itself and
it is nature who is taking early action. Human beings are yet
to wake up from their intellectual hibernation.
Some of the images that have made an impression
on my mind are:
- petrol stations flooded and closed down by water due to hurricanes
- cars being swept away by inundation and torrential rains.
By looking at these pictures I sense that nature
is taking early action on climate change. Message seems to be
'if you do not want to stop using petrol, the petrol station will
be stopped by nature through flooding, and if you do not want
to stop using cars, nature will stop it by flooding the roads.'
What a powerful message from Nature!
Humanity got similar messages in the 70s and 80s
on ozone layer depletion. Nature sent a message to us at that
time, 'if you do not stop using CFCs, nature will take action
and make you blind by causing eye cataracts or even causing skin
cancer and make you an invalid, so that you are handicapped and
forced not to use CFCs'. At that time we heeded the message given
by nature, we acted. Naturally!
Now is the time to heed the message on global warming
given by nature again, naturally!
By Rajendra Shende, firstname.lastname@example.org
The other day I was reading a document entitled
"National Security and threat of climate change". I
thought that the title of the document alone would stir national
governments and make them think intensively on actions how to
address climate change. Even those who doubted the certainty of
science, and those who -in the words of Sir Nicolas Stern - are
"absurd, reckless, irresponsible and ethically indefensible"
would think of doing something after reading it as it deals with
issues related to national security.
Security and Safety are the words that make people
act. I recall some one saying that those who do not want to throw
coins at beggars because they feel that beggars MUST work would
start throwing coins if you convince them that beggars and poverty
are severe threats to their security.
National Security is such an important issue now
that countrie take unilateral action if they find that there is
threat to their national security.
We all know that climate change is a 'global threat'.
But all global threats appear to be a distant thunder. As long
as 'it is not in my backyard ' the chances of any action against
the threat is a far-flung possibility. Very few realize that life
threatening lava flowing down from a volcano in the distance could
one day sweep not only 'my backyard' , but even the microscopic
life, leave alone human beings. The same goes with retreating
glaciers. It appears so far away, that the consequences of such
a glacial retreat like drying up of the rivers Ganges, Mekong,
Indus, Yangtze , Brahmaputra - all originating from Himalayan
glaciers - appear to many as a phenomenon that belongs to another
era in the distant future and not at all belonging to our times.
Even those Governments that are placid and complacent
are likely to act swiftly when there is threat to the national
security arising out of enemy attack or terrorism.
A distant global threat suddenly appears at the
door step when it is termed national security. Hence, I appreciated
the way the impacts of the climate change are shown as something
of a threat to the national security. It is the right way to create
awareness among governments to inspire actions.
Recently I even heard something more serious. A
document that I came across concluded that climate change is violating
On the radio I listened to the interview of an Eskimo
who was describing how his family livelihood and dignity is being
snatched away from them by the melting of snow due to global warming.
He can no longer slide his ice sledge to go hunting, and the ice
holes which he used to hunt for seals are disappearing. Even his
home built with ice blocks may no longer stand. The reindeers
will disappear, and he may not be able to stitch the clothes using
the skin of the reindeers. The basic necessities of food, shelter
and clothes are threatened due to global warming and he and his
family cannot live with dignity. He went on to say that this is
not future tense description. He is experiencing it now, at present.
So, he wants the Human Rights Commission to intervene
so that his basic human rights are protected. He also said that
he was not responsible for global warming, but he is getting affected
by it more and more and upfront. It has been recognized by now
that those who are not responsible for global warming i.e. the
poor countries would suffer most from the impacts as they would
not have ability and means to counter and to absorb the them.
Impacts of Ozone Layer Depletion could also have
threatened national security and violated human rights, had the
world not acted in time. Ozone layer depletion threatens the food
security (it reduces the plant growth and crop productivity),
human health (it reduces the immune system and causes cancer and
cataracts) and the very existence of human beings would have been
under severe threat, again starting with Eskimos who live in the
We have lessons to learn in addressing the national
security and human rights in relation with global environmental
issues. We may lose the battle but we should not lose the lessons
however small they may be.
By Rajendra Shende, email@example.com
16 April 2008
The "Axis of History" is well known in
Paris. It is the famous straight line that joins the historic
monuments: the pyramid of the Louvre, the Place de la Concorde,
the Arc de Triomphe and the Grande Arche.
The other day I went to the roof of the Grande Arche
(at the height of 110 meters) to see the exhibition 'History of
Information Technology'. It chronicled the events in the development
of the computers and internet since 1958. It was the 50th Anniversary
of the starting point of the digital revolution that swept over
the whole planet and changed the way we live.
The information in the exhibition was startling. Anywhere between
60 - 100 billion emails are sent daily as per the latest estimates
as of March 2008. And there are 1.3 billion people globally who
surf the internet, the majority of the surfers being in Asia.
"Networks" of computers is the founding principle of
this revolution. Sharing files and "packet switching"
are the key mechanisms for the speedy and effective communications.
Interestingly, the start of such communication was
the result of intense competition and the race in space technology
between the United States and Russia. In 1958, the United States
received a major surprise when Russia launched Sputnik. ARPAnet
(Advance Research Project Agreement Network) was initiated by
USA in 1958, in order to network with institutes and universities
to share and coordinate research results in the space technology
and other military research.
ARPAnet contributed immensely in putting man on
the Moon within ten years time. The cost of ARPAnet was just few
millions of dollars and the Apollo mission to the moon costed
some billions of dollars. That was the power and cost effectiveness
of networks! Cost effectiveness and speed is the value proposition
When I joined UNEP in Paris as Coordinator of OzonAction,
we decided to use this "value proposition of networks"
to help eliminate the production and consumption of the Ozone
Depleting Substances (ODS). Mrs. Ingrid Kokeritz, a renowned Swedish
expert on the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the
Ozone Layer, was very passionate about the mechanism of sharing
of the experiences among the government officers in charge of
the implementation of the Protocol. With Ingrid's vision and energy,
UNEP OzonAction launched ODSONet (ODS Officers' Network) to connect
12 countries in South East Asia Pacific region. The concept was
as simple as ARPAnet, but applied to the implementation of a multilateral
environmental agreement: sharing experience and exchanging real
life experiences to accelerate the implementation of the Montreal
Protocol was the value proposition.
Within 8 years, the Multilateral Fund expanded these
networks and now they connect 145 developing countries. UNEP OzonAction
now operates 10 regional and sub-regional networks that have been
recognised (though both formal evaluations and through testimonies
of Network members) as having contributed immensely to the faster
phase out of ozone depleting chemicals. Costing a few million
dollars, just about 3 % of the total US $ 2.5 billion spent in
implementing the Montreal Protocol in developing countries to
date, these networks have become inseparable part of the Montreal
Protocol. The ODSONets changed the way the Governments translate
the Protocol into the action.
ARPAnet gave birth to a world-changing spin-off
-- the Internet - the network of networks! Trade was banned on
the Internet till 1992. But once it was liberalized, the Internet
flourished. There are today about 165 million websites, half of
which are related to business. I was amazed to read the information
in the exhibition.
ODSOnet gave birth to the network of focal points
in other Multilateral Environmental Agreements. Who knows? --
Perhaps there will be a network of networks for MEAs in the near
future -it may revolutionalize the way we work towards the sustainable
By Rajendra Shende, firstname.lastname@example.org
23 March 2008, World Meteorological Day
One of the key success factors of the Montreal Protocol
is the role played by media. When first put forward by scientists,
the problem of ozone layer depletion was in reality far away,
seemingly much detached from everyday life on Earth. Physically
it was more than 20 kilometres up in the sky. Moreover, the cause
and effects of ozone layer depletion were removed from one another.
After listening to the hypotheses put forward by esteemed scientists
Paul J. Crutzen, Mario J. Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland, surely
the common man must have said, "there are so many real problems
for us to solve, who has the time and mind to hear this stratospherically
This remote issue was literally brought down to
earth and turned into an everyday issue by journalists. They metamorphosed
this esoteric atmospheric calamity into an iconic term the "Ozone
Hole" which came to be associated with the famous NASA satellite
image of ozone depletion over Antarctica. The journalists' work
made this hitherto isolated problem appear to be something of
a leaking roof over all of our heads. What could be more insecure
for a family than to have the safety and comfort of their home
imperilled because of a hole in their roof? One cannot go about
business as usual and sleep soundly in a house with a leak, particularly
when there is evidence that it is going to widen further unless
action is taken. The first thing the house dwellers would do is
to get a ladder, climb up to the roof and patch up the hole. What
else? The Montreal Protocol was that very ladder picked up by
the world community whose metaphoric roof was leaking.
On a long haul flight to Malaysia last week, I was
reading an article in a magazine about climate change. I finished
reading and looked out of the plane window into the distant blue
sky. I realised that there is not always a "dangerous"
connotation to the word "hole". While "ozone hole"
symbolised global environmental problem, "holes" drilled
in the Earth could be the answer to another global environmental
catastrophe facing humanity today -climate change.
When drilling into the earth, the temperature rises
rapidly every kilometre you descend. If you could reach down to
6 kilometres (some of the South African gold mines have already
reached up to 4 kilometres below the Earth's surface) the temperature
there would be 150 degree centigrade. Now imagine that we pour
water from one hole till this point, we could expect steam oozing
up from another parallel and connected hole drilled nearby. And
that steam could be used for turbines to generate electricity.
No need to burn fossil fuel to generate steam! Geothermal energy
has potential to help solve the climate change problem, if we
had the technology to drill such holes, and they could be located
near major population centres. Scientists are already engaged
in drilling such experimental bores. These are examples of "holes"
with a positive connotation that could help answer our global
Dear journalists, thanks for the your ingenuity
for the coining the term "ozone hole". But how about
another metaphor, this time to inspire global community to take
action against the climate change? How about: "One hole represents
a problem but two holes could solve the problem" or "Holistic
approach down into core of the earth to address the climate change"
Members of the media, we need your repeat performance
to catalyse action on climate change - immediately!
9 days before the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Montreal
Protocol in the city of Montreal, there was yet another landmark
event that took place to celebrate one more 20th anniversary of
the Protocol which changed the way the world works.
!That Protocol, i.e.
Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 7th September 1987 on
digital cellular mobile phone systems in Europe that later sparked
a technology revolution that even today continues unabated.
Though a cell phone was first made by Dr Martin Cooper of Motorola
in 1974 it took 13 years to set up and agree on cooperation mechanism
under a regional agreement that was signed in 1987 by 13 countries
and later came to be known as Global System of Mobile Communication-
Though the ozone depletion was first hypothized by Molina-Rowland
in 1974, at the University of California, it took 13 years to set
up and agree on a cooperation mechanism under the global agreement
that was signed in 1987 by 24 countries and later came to be known
as the Montreal Protocol-MP-on substances that deplete the Ozone
The agreement on GSM in 1987 is now widely regarded as the foundation
of today's global mobile phone industry and is one of the greatest
technological achievements of our days, says Rob Conway, CEO of
GSM Association. The CEOs of the industrial world and the heads
of the governments have nothing different to say about the Montreal
Protocol, the most successful multilateral environmental agreement
in the world so far.
There are 2.5 billion users of mobile telephones today, 7 trillion
minutes of talking time and 2.5 trillion SMS messages are sent every
year over GSM networks.
There are 6 billion people whose governments are Party to the Montreal
Protocol and are engaged in implementation of the Montreal Protocol.
It has already eliminated nearly 1.6 trillion grams of CFCs, which
is equivalent of nearly 10 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. In
both cases, GSM and MP, the early vision of the industry and the
governments created an international cooperation on an unprecedented
scale. It resulted into technological evolutions benefiting the
lives of people over the last twenty years. Mobile phones have been
able to reduce the digital divide. The Montreal Protocol has succeeded
in bridging the environmental divide and the developmental aspirations
between developed and developing countries.
I recall the international negotiations to strengthen the Montreal
Protocol. In the Gigiri complex of UNEP in Nairobi, in 1989, the
Scientific Assessment Panel of WMO and UNEP was presenting their
assessment. I was part of the Government of India attempting to
understand the impact of the participation of the developing countries
in meeting the Protocol's target. Dr Bob Watson, Chair of the Scientific
Assessment Panel, was presenting the famous bell-size curves on
chlorine loading in the stratosphere. I, through the Indian Government
negotiator, asked Dr Watson how the bell-size curve would look like
and to what extent the ozone layer recovery would be delayed if
developing countries participated in the Montreal Protocol some
years after the developed countries started implementing it. For
example: what would be the impact on chlorine loading and the recovery
of ozone layer if the time lag was 10 years, 15 years, 20 years
and -interesting option- if developing countries were totally exempted
from the Montreal Protocol. In the evening of that same day, Dr
Watson spoke to his team in NOAA and NASA in USA who did the computer
modelling and the following morning he presented to the negotiators
in Nairobi how the bell-curve would change and how the ozone layer
recovery would get affected. In fact, he presented to us through
a visual impact if the developing countries decided on late participation
During the negotiations on the agreement on mobile phones-GSM-,
no one asked such questions on the differentiation of the developed
and developing country participation. Probably the technological
potential of mobile phones was overwhelming and the idea swept the
minds of the negotiators.
No power in the world, not even the powerful nuclear missile, can
stop an idea whose time has come!
By Rajendra Shende, email@example.com
21 December 2007
The story of Bali is part of Ramayana, an Indian epic written thousands
of years ago. Briefly it goes like this: Rama - during his exile
in the forest - comes across the kingdom of monkeys. The twin monkey
brothers, Bali and Sugreeva, had serious disputes and engaged in
war - a direct duel. Both were extremely powerful and it was believed
that both would die in the duel if a third party does not intervene.
Rama was to watch the duel through a hiding place and help his friend
Sugreeva by aiming at Bali with an arrow. From his hiding place
Rama could not target Bali as both looked identical and Rama did
not want to hit the wrong target.
In the city of Bali, Indonesia, many of the folk stories from Ramayana
are inherited and cherished. The countries succeeded in carrying
out what looked like 'duel' negotiations. Both sides were equally
powerful. The only option was to declare both winners or both losers.
What was the outcome on COP meeting on climate change in Bali ?
The public watched the duel from a distance , but definitely not
from a hiding place. This time the public was prominently placed
and well informed - thanks to the efforts of IPCC, Al Gore and the
media. The negotiators were, therefore, under pressure and the final
outcome was: a new road map! They have now a sense of direction,
but no definite destination. They seem to have a desire to find
a 'way' but no 'will' to decide who would be their co-travelers
when they set out to go on a 'march' from the start-line. I feel
that what was forgotten by the negotiators was the Montreal Protocol
on substances that deplete the Ozone Layer which has addressed this
very dilemma. I would call the Montreal Protocol, a Protocol on
"approaches that prevent planetary crises".
When there is a planetary crisis there is only one direction: run
more rapidly away from the crisis. When tsunamis arise we have to
run away from the water, when volcanoes erupt, we have to run away
from them. When there is a 'shower of meteors' we have to collectively
protect each other by whatever means we have. If the planetary crisis
is due to greenhouse gases emissions, the only direction is to reduce
The Montreal Protocol has certainly shown the roadmap to avoid
global disaster. That roadmap indicated: Follow the precautionary
approach and start early action, even if science is uncertain. Accept
common but differentiated responsibility so that stronger economies
help fragile ones.
In Ramayana the Bali story goes further. Rama could not target
the enemy. But then there was the next round of the duel. This time
Rama made sure that his friend wore a distinct mark so that he could
target the enemy.
Let us wait for the next round of this duel of climate change.
we there yet?
By Rajendra Shende, firstname.lastname@example.org
13 December 2007
Are we there yet? I am sure many of you remember this childhood
question posed to your father or mother. Remember? You were tired
walking with them hanging on to their hand, or bag or purse and
wondering how long this walk is going to take before you reach home-sweet-home.
Later, while studying at the university, I saw a very thoughtful
cartoon in 'Punch' magazine. The cartoon showed a vast desert scorching
sun and a couple of Mongolian nomads walking along with camels loaded
with "nomadic essentials". A small child on camel, asks
his walking mother, "Are we there yet?" and his mother
replies, "No, my child, we are all nomads!" That cartoon
made a great impact on my mind at that time. 'Bhagvatgeeta",
an epic written in Sanskrit some 5,000 years ago considered to be
an anchor of Hindu philosophy states that : 'keep working without
expecting the fruits of your work' . Its similarity with nomadic
philosophy i.e. 'keep walking, do not expect to reach your destination!'
is evident. We all talk about much publicized phenomenon of globalization,
but the philosophies were globalised even at that time, I thought.
On 17 October 2007, exactly one month after the 20th Anniversary
celebration of the Montreal Protocol, I read an update from the
World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It says, "The 2007
Antarctic Ozone hole is relatively small both in terms of the ozone
hole area and in the amount of destroyed ozone. For the last 10
years, only during 2002 and 2004 the ozone holes were smaller than
the 2007 ozone hole." A 'feel-good' sense prevails my thoughts,
till I read the next sentence of the bulletin, "It should be
pointed out that this is not a sign of ozone recovery." Well,
I ask Mother Earth, "Are we NOT there yet?"
Interestingly the reason given by WMO for such an observation is
related to global warming! It says that the chlorine loading (represented
by the ozone depleting gases) in the stratosphere is depleting 1%
per year since the year 2000 due to measures under the Montreal
Protocol. But there is enough chlorine there for ozone holes to
appear for another 10 - 20 years.
Due to global warming the stratospheric temperatures will be lowered
as more heat is trapped in the earth's atmosphere. Such lowering
of temperatures shall further increase the severity of the ozone
depletion due to forecasts of polar stratospheric clouds. The clouds
consist of microscopic ice particles which act as catalyst and provide
the surface needed to accelerate the chemical reaction leading to
breaking of the ozone molecule. Mr Gerhard Ertl won the 2007 Nobel
Prize in Chemistry for his studies of chemical processes on solid
surfaces that include the accelerated reactions due to polar stratospheric
clouds. Then WHY the smaller ozone hole in 2007? Well, the WMO bulletin
continues, "There will always be inter-annual variability in
the meteorological conditions, so we can experience less severe
I recall my mother telling me, "Ok, my child, I know you are
tired. Look, see that bus coming there. We will take that bus, no
more walking for you." I indeed saw a bus coming and I thought
the walk was over. Unfortunately, the bus was full; it stopped momentarily,
nobody got down and it went on. I could see the bus disappearing
in a cloud -not polar stratospheric-but of rural road dust. Mother
looked at me and said, "Let's go, keep walking!"
By Rajendra Shende, email@example.com
16 October 2007
The clinking of wine glasses followed by 'cheers' were as omnipresent
in Montreal during the 20th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol
as the speeches extolled the virtues and lessons learnt from this
As I returned to my hotel after one of the many receptions I decided
to take a walk to the 'Parc de Prince' one of my favorite places
in Montreal. Wine makes people talk, it makes me walk! The Parc
de Prince is at the bottom of 'Mont Real' the historic landmark
hill in Montreal. I had been to Montreal many times before and was
immediately 'time-machined' into nostalgia. This nostalgia was about
wine, grapes and the process of fermentation that I learnt during
my years of chemical engineering!
I prefer the science of wine making more than wine itself. Fermentation
is a natural process during which sugar is transformed into alcohol
by using energy from nature with natural enzymes acting as catalysts.
A perfect example of sustainable or 'green' chemistry. Is there
any other chemical process that has done so much for the well-being
of humankind? For example, the manufacture of penicillin is a classical
fermentation process which changed the health of people.
While I was walking past the maple trees, I recalled how grapes
are fermenting with their seeds. It produces polyphenol which have
the properties of anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants act against aging.
Due to the presence of such substances grape seeds and wines were
one of the first medicines in ancient times.
Why is it that grapes or tomatoes do not change their shiny skins
or tastes even when the weather is changing? Grapes and tomatoes
absorb sunshine all the time as they are growing. Grapes are grown
in mid to higher attitudes where Ozone Layer Depletion and UV rays
are significant. So how is it that the skins of grapes do not get
affected by 'cancerous' diseases? Scientists have proven that plants
are 'living beings' just like humans. One would expect that the
skin of grapes or tomatoes would get affected by UV rays just as
the human skin does.
Back in Paris I read about the "Laboratoire Oenobiol"
founded by Madame Marie Bejot. She said that "skin is the visiting
card of health, be it that of human beings or of grapes or tomatoes".
Her philosophy impressed me stating that what we eat decides the
quality of our skin. She then manufactured and promoted nutrition
capsules rich in polyphenol and Omega-3 which supplement our diet.
She points out that grapes are able to keep their skin so shiny
and are able to combat UV rays not because they put on sun screen
lotion but because the nutrient intake of grapes and their synthesis
produce polyphenols and Omega-3. These cartenoids act as a final
filter against UV rays thus keeping the skin shiny and free of abnormal
growth. So why cannot human beings also increase their intake in
such a way that polyphenols are sufficiently produced to counter
Our body is capable of producing such substances according to what
we eat. Unfortunately, we live to eat whereas plants eat to live.
The 20th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol listed a number of
lessons for climate change. This is one more example, a lesson from
Mother Nature. It is about nature adapting to global environmental
problems. At least, the Ozone Layer Depletion we have known is likely
to be over. In the case of Climate Change there is depletion of
actions. Surely, plants have started their actions against changing
climate. When do we start?
By Rajendra Shende, firstname.lastname@example.org,
28 August 2007
4-day traffic trial in the city of Beijing was probably the biggest
ever trial to ensure clean air during the next year's 2008 Olympics.
On one of those days, I arrived in Beijing; cars with number plates
ending with odd numbers were banned from the roads. I could reach
my hotel from the airport in no time, as nearly 50 % of Beijing's
3 million cars were off the roads. The taxi driver looked happy,
as there were no traffic jams. Even the airport expressway looked
more beautiful with thick trees on both sides, which about a decade
ago looked so thin and sparse. The Chinese government has taken
air pollution seriously, especially in view of the 29th Summer Olympics
that will take place exactly one year from now.
I was in Beijing to give an opening presentation at the International
Congress of Refrigeration. But I took the opportunity to meet with
the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee at its multi-storied headquarters.
This was my third visit to the Beijing Organizing Committee of the
Olympic Games (BOCOG), since UNEP signed an agreement with the Committee
to assist them in making the games 'Green Games'. I met with the
head of Construction and Environment Department which has just issued
a report called "Beijing 2008: Environment Protection, Innovation
I recalled OzonAction's first conference call with BOCOG who visited
Nairobi in 2004 and later a meeting in Paris where we succeeded
in convincing BOCOG that "Ozone layer protection friendly Olympics"
- as BOCOG calls it now - should be part of the overall theme of
'Green Olympics'. At that time we debated that avoiding CFCs could
probably be not that difficult, because China would be accelerating
its phase-out of CFCs by more than two years, i.e. by 2008. However,
phasing out of HCFCs which are scheduled for 2040, e.g. 32 years
after the Olympics, would be a formidable challenge. Mr Yu Xiaoxuan,
Deputy Head, was enthusiastic. He decided to take the challenge
head on. We even discussed that BOCOG could consider buying products
for catering that will be free of methyl bromide treatment during
the soil fumigation.
Both OzonAction & BOCOG were determined to use this global
event as a key awareness raising tool for the Ozone Layer Protection.
BOCOG was enthusiastic to demonstrate that China is not just the
most populated country 'fully geared for the games', but it is also
the "largest developing country which will become an example
of environmental heritage for the Olympic event!"
And here comes the amazing news that made my day! Beijing Olympics
will be HCFC-free! Even for the athletics village and apartments
HCFCs were not used in air conditioning. And for the athletes' dining
hall, lithium bromide absorption systems with solar energy will
be installed in place of HCFCs. HCFC coolants are being increasingly
used by developing countries as short-term alternatives to CFCs.
It does not violate the stipulation in the Montreal Protocol, but
Beijing Olympics have gone for the high jump! Such long-term vision
of BOCOG has sent a strong message. I was amazed to see what this
'awakening dragon' has done! I went through the review report, talked
with industry suppliers and noted that China has leap-frogged! It
has successfully avoided the use of HCFCs, 32 years ahead of the
Montreal Protocol schedule.
The main Olympic stadium has the architecture that resembles a
bird's nest! It literally looks like a gigantic nest, a nest caring
for the planet and the environment, I thought.
What BOCOG has done is like crossing the borders and going beyond
environmental standards set out for developing countries by raising
the bar! Beijing Olympics has introduced the new environmental event
in the games, called leap frogging! China has already won the Gold
Medal in that event!
NOTE: BOCOG recently received 20th Anniversary Ozone Protection
award from the UNEP Ozone Secretariat.
By Rajendra Shende, email@example.com
3 August 2007
Science-driven policy making requires that legislators fully understand
science. My many years of experience with bureaucrats have shown
that there is a need to de-mystify science and explain the intricacies
in a simple language. One of my numerous encounters during international
meetings resulted in the following questions from a top-level bureaucrat:
"Mr Shende, this is all fine. But how do you explain the science
of ozone depletion to a mother?"
I presumed that he believed that mothers do not understand the
intricacies of science unless explained in household terms. I, of
course, disagreed with his assumption, but decided to take up a
challenge. I developed the following dialogue between a mother and
a school going child and gave to him in the next 45 minutes.
Mother: What is this ozone layer? I only know about 'chocolate
layers' in the cakes I make.
Child: Mother, you do make extremely tasty chocolate layer
cakes. But "Mother Earth" has made another kind of layer
called the "ozone layer" - about 20-40 km above the earth!
It is certainly not as thick as a chocolate layer! In fact it is
very thin. Out of 1 million air molecules, less than 10 are of ozone.
Mother: I cannot believe that such a small amount would
make such a difference to life on earth.
Child: But it does. Imagine making a pot of soup. Just a
very small amount of herbs or spices make that soup spring to life.
It's the same in the case of ozone molecules. And Mother Nature
always keeps the ozone layer in balance, just as you always keep
your tasty soup in delicious balance.
Mother: OK, so that tasty layer makes life possible on earth.
Child: Exactly, it blocks the deadly UV rays from the sun
and saves us from skin cancer. But, the CFC-based aerosol that you
sprayed on your hair when you were young, and the CFC-based air-conditioner
that I used in my first car damaged the ozone layer and thus the
ozone hole was created.
Mother: How could a hair spray, affect the ozone layer enough
to make a hole in it?
Child: Don't you recall when father cooks pasta down in
the kitchen, and we are upstairs playing cards, how just the smell
of the pasta drifting upstairs makes us feel hungry? Well, it's
the same process.
Mother: Oh my dear! So now I can never go to the beach to
bathe in the sun, because the UV rays will strike me!
Child: Well, thanks to the global agreement called the Montreal
Protocol, the wealthy countries of the world have stopped production
and consumption of CFCs.
Mother: But who gives the money to assist all these developing
Child: I knew that you would ask this question, Mom! The
money is given by the rich countries who were mainly responsible
for damaging the ozone layer. Do you recall when I used to mess
up my room - you used to say "You messed it up, now you clean
it "! Well it's the same idea
.and developing countries
are showing tremendous progress the way I am showing now in my studies!!
Mother: So why is it not showing a continuous decline, if
this programme of yours has really done good work?
Child: Mom, atmospheric chemistry is very complex and even
chaotic. Imagine, when all of your friends meet for a party, they
make a lot of noise. Can you possibly pinpoint (or hear) what one
of your friends whispers in the ear of another friend during the
party? This is the same case. But thanks to the collective actions
by the world community , at least we have arrested the rising trend!
The risk is diminished. That's the rare success!! United nations
is proud of it.
. So, now I can go to the beach!
Child: Well, hold on, not so fast! It's like when you go
for a long hike. You are on the right track according to the map,
but you have still not reached the destination.
Mother: That sounds like UN language! Nothing is sure
everything is vague.
Child: Nothing is sure because we have made this world uncertain.
Your and my generations have released so many CFCs in the atmosphere
that they are still traveling to the ozone layer and will still
continue to cause damage. We still drive cars and use fossil fuels
to generate electricity
.that causes climate change
this climate change may delay ozone layer recovery.
I thought how useful it will be if mother of this top level bureaucrat
would also be explained in similar simple language the way the bureaucracy
By Rajendra Shende, firstname.lastname@example.org
23 July 2007
Ulaan Baator is the coldest capital in the world and also the capital
with the longest winter. Temperatures can go up to minus 60 degree
Celcius and winter lasts for nearly 9 months ending in May.
I was taking my early morning brisk walk by exploring the surroundings
of the Erktet Suld Gher Camp, about 25 km outside of Ulaan Baator.
It was the venue for a UNEP workshop organised by the Compliance
Assistance Programme of our Bangkok office. A very innovative venue
indeed! We stayed in Mongolian ghers (round shaped rooms assembled
and dissembled by nomads in Mongolia) - a point of departure from
the usual hotel conference rooms!
End of June, traversing the steppe, amidst the bare hills is a
unique experience. A vast green pasture, blue sky, a slow wind blowing
across the hills made my walk a true dream walk.
Walking along a small track, I noticed something which I had never
seen before. It was a marmot hurrying back to its underground hole
carrying a white piece of styrofoam in its mouth. By the time I
reached the hole, the marmot was already deep inside, but the white
foam was a few inches down from the opening of the hole. I spotted
some more white pieces brought by the marmot, arranged like a barricade
at the entrance with a small opening on the side only for marmots
to go inside. I could clearly see that these were pieces of insulating
packaging foam picked up from a nearby construction site. The marmot
was obviously preparing for winter, almost 3 months away! Marmots
are the most common rodents in Mongolia. The number of underground
mammals such as rabbits and marmots is higher than the above-ground
animal population like camels and horses. This particular marmot
must be an intelligent one and 'responsive' to change as per Darwin's
theory of "survival of the fittest". The insulating foam
protects the marmot against harsh winter winds blowing across Mongolian
pastures. Obviously, the Mongolian marmot has entered the 21st century
with the full knowledge of modern markets and technological products!
Such insulating foams are traditionally blown with CFCs or HCFCs.
Once blown with these gases, they form a rigid foam and are very
slowly released into the atmosphere. Though by 2010, the new production
and consumption of CFCs will be phased out, CFCs will remain in
foams that have already been produced. As a coordinating lead author
of the Special Report of IPCC/ TEAP, I knew that in 2002, nearly
2 million tonnes of CFCs were in foams that were already manufactured
and in use. By 2015, this figure will be reduced to 1.3 million
tonnes due to slow release of CFCs from foam into the atmosphere.
By destroying the foams, such releases can be reduced further.
As I strolled in the crispy cold morning, I wondered how much CFCs
are contained in such pieces of foam that are towed by the marmots
of the world. Whatever their quantities, CFCs trapped in underground
holes will be released to reach the ozone hole within the next few
Such release will also add to global warming as CFCs are greenhouse
gases. Maybe the Mongolian marmot has masterminded climate adaptation
by finding an unusual solution to make the Mongolian winters warmer.
I stopped this silly thought and took a picture of that insulated
home of the marmot instead.
By Rajendra Shende, email@example.com
9 July 2007
As we approached the city of Changshu, a two hour drive from Shanghai,
I could see along the way the economic growth driven by the 'opening
up of the Chinese economy'. On either side of the expressway I could
see massive construction activities with a maze of overbridges,
skyscrapers and sprawling housing complexes. A giant dragon was
not only awakening but now wide awake.
Over the last two decades, the world has been celebrating opening
of markets and borders. Every week China celebrates the opening
of one or two large power plants to ensure a steady supply of electricity
to its economy. What an unprecedented growth.
But I was in the city of Changshu to celebrate the closure of a
business! Now this fact would invite many questions. A United Nations
representative in China to celebrate the closure of a business?
And at the invitation of the Chinese Government? It sounds like
'Alter movement' or 'Anti Globalization campaign' which aims at
Interestingly, the closure was for opening a new chapter in the
history of the Montreal Protocol. China closed the manufacturing
facility of CFCs ( chlorofluorocarbons) and Halons ( bromochlorofluoromethanes)
on 1st July2007. The closure was two and a half years ahead of the
schedule stipulated in the Montreal Protocol. China, the largest
producer of CFCs and halons since 1996, shut down its business to
close the ozone hole and open up the expressway leading to ozone-friendly
Accelerated closure of production of hazardous chemicals in China
has sent a strong signal to the entire world that a simple step
in early closure could open the long march towards sustainable development.
The venue of the celebration was also symbolic. The city of Changshu
boasts of many chemical and textile plants. It is under the administration
of China's flagship city of Suzhou where economic growth is one
of the highest in China. The mayor of Changshu, Mr Wang Jiankang,
was also giving a subtle message to the chemical industry about
the strategic approach for the chemical management, i.e. getting
rid of the toxic chemicals as early as possible.
It is an untold story that by stopping the production of nearly
60,000 MT per year of CFCs and Halons, China has also contributed
to reducing climate change impact, because CFCs and halons are also
Green House Gases (GHG). The equivalent of CO2 reduction achieved
by such closure is about greater of gigatons. This is 25 % of the
global target under the Kyoto Protocol in year 2010 to 2012. That
opens up further possibilities for reducing Climate Change.
The city of Suzhou is known for its natural beauty and gardens.
The Chinese say that in the heaven we have paradise and on the earth
we have Suzhou. With the closure of the CFC and Halons plants Suzhou
looked even better.
By Rajendra Shende, firstname.lastname@example.org
22 June 2007
On my flight from Delhi to Thimphu I was looking down at the rugged
panoramic view of sheer majestic beauty. The gigantic wall of the
Himalayas painted with summits and glaciers drive you to meditate.
It leaves one dumbstruck with a thought that nature can be so attractive
yet fearful at the same time. It is one of the incredible sites
on earth that makes one humble and contemplative. As we pass the
peaks of Annapurna and Everest the plane slowly descends into the
Paro valley in Bhutan.
As we descend, am astonished by the appearance of the houses around
the valley, so I ask a Bhutanese sitting next to me. "Why are
the house-tops painted in red?". "Those are not painted
roofs, those are the famous red chillies of Bhutan - Dalla - spread
over the roofs and being sun dried - natural drying!" the Bhutanese
replies. I could see the houses scattered on the slopes of the hills
all drying chillies in the sun. I remembered that natural drying
keeps vitamins and flavours intact. Entering Bhutan is like entering
the Kingdom of Nature. I experience Bhutan as a country that is
in complete harmony with nature.
Take, for example, the houses in Bhutan; a traditional construction
includes a flat roof topped with a slight sloping roof. A roof on
the roof! Just below the top roof is the gap that is open from the
sides. Bhutanese store the bundles of hay and other agricultural
material there! It allows air to cross-circulate and also provides
insulation. Bhutanese houses do not require any air conditioning
and they require very low artificial heating.
The major export earning for Bhutan - contrary to popular belief-
is not tourism, nor the sale of timber or wild life. It is the sale
of renewable energy. Bhutan produces almost all of its electricity
from hydropower plants and exports more than 80 % of it. The most
important contributor to the development of Bhutan is the earning
from the export of electricity from renewable energy. It is the
only nation in the world whose development is based on renewable
How appropriate that Bhutanese measure their development and well
being in terms of "GNH" - Gross National Happiness and
not in terms of modern economic index of GNP - Gross National Product.
The OzonAction Programme decided to carry out regional celebrations
throughout the year 2007 in celebration of the 20th anniversary
of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone layer.
I was there for that occasion. 24 countries from Asia Pacific were
represented. Phasing out ODS is not a national priority, for Bhutan.
"By implementing the Montreal Protocol, we are in fact putting
into practice Bhutan's constitution which promotes intergenerational
equity!" said Dasho Nado Rinchhen, Minister of Environment.
He explained, "Indeed, the Ozone layer is a natural resource
and should be used in a sustainable way." Truly, the Montreal
Protocol's objective itself is based on intergenerational equity.
For protection of environment, para 4 of Article 5 of the draft
constitution allows the Parliament to "
legislation and implement environmental standards and instruments
based on the precautionary principle, polluter pay principle, maintenance
of intergenerational equity", to ensure sustainable use of
natural resources and reaffirm the sovereign rights of the State
over its own biological resources. The world community is attempting
to hand over the ozone layer in the same condition as it was inherited
it from the previous generation. Probably, the Montreal Protocol
is the only international treaty that has practical provisions of
On the way back to the airport, I see Buddhist monuments called
'Chortens' or 'stupas'. Each chorten has 5 steps representing earth,
water, fire, air and ether. Wow, Bhutan, a true Kingdom of Nature.
By Rajendra Shende, email@example.com
A flight lands smoothly from about 10-11 kms above the earth. That
high level blue experience comes to an end with a light thud as
the aircraft touches the ground. The blue sky color slowly vanishes
as the earthly colors dominate - the grey and black runway, the
white airport building and the Eastman color huge bill boards that
welcome the travelers in the country. And then as one exits, there
appears those red and green signs monitored by the customs officers:
'Nothing to Declare' the green zone and the forbidding red zone.
Those cold, penetrating eyes of the customs officers cause butterflies
in your stomach. You have to be ready to open your bags, to show
your favorite alcoholic drinks that you recently purchased or the
electronic gadget that you wrapped in your clothes, and then respond
to the customs officer, which almost feels like a prosecutor firing
questions at you in the witness box. And if you are unfortunately
called aside to open your bags, you have no choice but to cooperate
and hope that customs makes a fast search before a nice lady passes
and gets a glimpse of some of the unmentionables that may be untidily
packed in your bag.
On one occasion I was stopped and called aside. "I have come
to attend a United Nations meeting and all am carrying are documents
and files," I respond briefly hoping this will shorten the
inspection. Not a chance. As if he hadn't heard me, he said, "Can
you now open this second bag," came the cool but firm voice
from the customs officer, who is unimpressed with my UN status.
The United Nations Environment Programme delivers training programmes
for policy setting, in good practices for the emission reduction,
and so on. The training is normally for government officers from
the ministry of the environment, in enhancing their understanding
of the global environmental issues. When I took up my assignment
with the UNEP, I never ever imagined that one day these very customs
officers would receive training from me. I never dreamt that a day
would come when instead of customs asking me to open my bags, I
would be telling them to open their bags and take out the training
I remember one day when I was walking through the 'nothing to declare
green zone' at Budapest Airport, a customs officer called out, "Are
you Mr. Shende of UNEP?" I started sweating under my overcoat
then he said, "I remember last year you had given us training
on the prevention of the illegal trade of the CFCs." I was
so relieved and felt very strangely proud when other passengers
behind me were looking at me with awe. I was then escorted graciously
towards the exit - not the green zone welcome but royal red carpet
welcome, I thought. As for my bags, they still went through screening!
Customary welcome by Customs, I thought.
Once at Delhi Airport at 2 o clock in the morning, the customs
authorities located me when I collected my bag from the creaking
conveyor belt and made my way through the green zone. A customs
officer gave me a broad smile and invited me to his small cozy cabin.
After my bags went through the screening machine and with an uncharacteristic
smile that one never sees on the faces of the customs officers,
he offered me some Delhi wala masala tea and said, 'I like the Green
Customs Training Programme. You have packed such interesting information
on many international environmental agreements in your training
guide. It's a nice change for us to receive training in the illegal
trade in the environmentally sensitive trade.'
Uncustomary side of the customs officers, I thought.
Ashgabat, 28 February 2007
f the present generation has to write the history of the future,
such an exercise could be termed as, for want of better words, digging
up the past or peering into a crystal ball. I strongly felt such
a need when I was in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, just
a few days back. Eighty percent of Turkmenistan is desert and nothing
grows there. But ideas and concepts, visions and the dreams that
grow there are plentiful.
I was in Ashgabat to participate in the 6th Regional Network Meeting
of National Ozone Units of 11 countries in the Europe and Central
Asia region. The year 2007 being the 20th Anniversary of the signing
of the Montreal Protocol, the Network meeting was launched with
much fanfare, with amazing performances by an orchestra of students
dressed in traditionally colorful costumes that include the Turkmen
cap placed on the top back of the head. As part of the programme,
the participants visited the adjacent National Museum of Turkmenistan.
One of the objects in the museum that attracted my attention was
a replica of a well of an ancient castle. The guide explained that
wells in the 3rd century A.D. were not only used to draw water but
also to keep them cool and preserve them. The people at that time
suspended food deep down in the wells. Crossbars were installed
at the mouth of the wells and from there food articles were suspended
deep inside to cool and preserve them. My modern 'technologist mind'
was simply and literally taken aback. I expressed my astonishment
for this simple method of preservation of perishable food. Unaware
of the background of my 'CFC trained' mind, the guide went on to
explain, "But that was not the only way to preserve the meat
and vegetables at that time. People in that era, dried salted food
in the sun and buried it in the ground for several days. Did you
know that a few feet below the earth there is a cold zone?"
the guide asked.
I remembered the ruins of the forts near my village in India which
I visited as a young student. I learned that grain storage was underground.
Surely there too the villagers must have used the 'deep down earth
refrigerator' even for the preservation of perishable food. The
storage spaces were large, which meant that they were underground
'community refrigerators'. Amazing, I thought, because the need
for preservation also gave rise to community living and team spirit.
The natural way to implement the Refrigerant Management Plan for
the community, I thought.
Later in the night, after the meeting, I was reading a book, 'Ruhnama'
written by the former President of Turkmenistan. It is the book
that is omnipresent in Ashgabat, the "city of love". The
book was given to each workshop participant as a souvenir. As I
browsed through it, my eyes were glued to one of the thoughts expressed
there. It said that modern science and its inventions contradict
nature. How true! So-called science has brought us so far - from
the use of ' down to earth community-refrigerator that utilized
mother earth's cool affection' to the 'domestic-refrigerator that
utilized CFCs tearing apart nature's protective stratospheric ozone
layer high up above us'. What progress!
Adversity may be the mother of invention, but that invention has
to be thoughtful. The civilization that lived in the deserts could
invent methods of prosperous and sustainable living by harnessing
nature. We now need the fathers of the invention to assess the contradictions
of their creation and make 'natural and sustainable choices'. What
we need is the regular release of a Global Civilization Outlook
(GCO) just like the existing Global Environmental Outlook (GEO).
It is time, I thought, that we start collecting such not-in-kind
technologies that our forefathers used without contradicting nature.
Anniversaries are the occasion to reflect on the past to face the
future challenges. Frankly, the past of the Montreal Protocol does
not start from 1989; it goes back much farther to the time when
-- Rajendra Shende, firstname.lastname@example.org
Paris, 15 February 2007.
About a week ago, I was in a taxi headed for The Hague train station
to catch the Thalys that would take me back to Paris. The overcast
sky with intermittent drizzles reminded me of Parisian weather.
Just a few hours back, The Hague had experienced its first snow
fall of the winter. The taxi driver, from Suriname, talked about
'climate change' and made Dutch monologues, which seemed to signal
that he was not sure of what is happening. I had spent most of that
day discussing that same subject in a different context with an
informal group of experts from around the world called the 'Stockholm
Group.' The context of that meeting was , among other things, relation
between the Montreal and Kyoto Protocols.
While waiting for my train, I settled in one of those station cafes.
To kill time, I opened my laptop and googled 'Montreal Protocol'
and got about 1.04 million references. Then I googled the much talked-about
'Kyoto Protocol' and not surprisingly I got about 1.2 million references.
Out of inquisitiveness I decided , then, to google the term 'Montreal
and Kyoto Protocol'. Interestingly, that only gave me about 9000
I realized that the number of references that pop up on Google
is no indicator of the importance of that subject. The linkage between
the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer
and the Kyoto Protocol on climate change will soon be taking a critical
place in the international scenario on the international governance
of the Multilateral Environment Agreements.
Curiously, the first time the experts started talking about the
links between the two atmospheric Protocols was in the context of
conflicts between the two Protocols arising out of the use of HFCs
(hydrofluorocarbon gases). HFCs are the substitutes for CFCs which
are not ozone depleting but are global warming. So, the issue was
rightly raised: we are solving one problem through the Montreal
Protocol but at the same time, we are adding to another environmental
problem of global warming. The expert group was convened under IPCC
and TEAP to review this issue. I was the lead author coordinating
the report. The outcome of that assessment is much more than what
we understood till then about the linkage between the Montreal and
Now the experts are discussing, analyzing and concluding how the
Montreal Protocol is contributing in very significant ways to mitigate
the climate change. Firstly, CFCs and other ozone depleting substances
like, halons, HCFCs and CTC are global warming. Their global warming
potential is 100 to 10,000 times more than carbon dioxide. More
than 2 million tonnes of such chemicals have been phased out over
the last two decades as a result of the Montreal Protocol. Where
HFCs are being used as substitutes, the energy efficiencies of many
of the appliances have improved. In such cases use of HFCs becomes
climate friendly. It is not only emissions of the gases per se that
should be the determining factor for the ozone and climate friendly
chemicals, but the life cycle analysis of use of such gases that
are now recommended. The policy setting needs to build on such sustainable
A presentation (the detailed paper will be published in the reputed
science journal next month after peer review,) made by Dr Velders
of Netherlands's Environmental Assessment Agency in The Hague meeting
was quite revealing. It showed that over all benefits by 2010 of
the implementation of the Montreal Protocol would be the reduction
in the range of 10 to 12 giga tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent
per year even after counting the off set of use of HFCs. This is
an extraordinary contribution of the Montreal Protocol for the cause
of climate change. Just for the comparison, what the Kyoto Protocol
has set as a target of reduction of just about 1 giga tonnes of
the carbon dioxide equivalent per year for the average of years
2008 to 2012, the Montreal Protocol contribution is 10 times more
than what the world community agreed in 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol
It is therefore time that the world realizes that technology has
tremendous potential to innovate, and many times policy makers fail
to factor that in. This is the story that needs to be told to a
-- Rajendra Shende, email@example.com
Paris, 1 February 2007
aware is to be conscious, to be conversant and to be mindful. Awareness
is the state of mind that makes us think. Initially while working
on awareness activity programmes in the United Nations, I considered
that the tools for making civil society aware of environmental issues
are posters, labels, booklets, web sites, guidebooks, workshops
and meetings. 12 years back, the former Environment Minister of
China, Mr. Xie Zhenhua, and the former Director General of China's
State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and I used a different
mechanism to create awareness among the citizens of Beijing. This
mechanism demonstrated the long term impacts. It clearly illustrated
the point that it is not the tools that create the awareness but
the way those tools reach out to society and the way the messages
are communicated and understood by the recipients is of critical
We decided that on International Day for the Preservation of the
Ozone Layer we would stand in the street near the huge market of
Beijing and create awareness about Ozone Layer Protection. We turned
the "market" into a "marketplace of ideas".
16 September 1995, Beijing's sky was being lit with the autumn
morning sun; an inspiring event was unfolding at Xidan Commercial
area, a major shopping complex in Beijing. Mr. Xie Zhenhua, and
Mr. Liu Yi, Former Director General of SEPA and in charge of the
Ozone Layer Protection unit, my colleague Jim Curlin, myself and
other high government officers stood at the huge entrance of the
market distributing UNEP posters translated into Chinese to the
consumers who had come there for holiday shopping. The message Mr.
Xie and Mr. Yi were giving with the help of UNEP was simple: "do
not buy products containing Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) - they
destroy the Earth's ozone shield." To attract the shoppers'
attention, SEPA had arranged for a band of school children to be
present to sing songs on environmental protection.
There were no international experts on communication, no speeches,
no lectures, and no power-point presentations. Directly reaching
the people was the point of power! The event took place on an open
street and the audience consisted of everyday people. While the
sun over their heads emitted powerful UV rays, the Minister emitted
a more powerful message about the need to protect our ozone layer.
It was an event that symbolised the beginning of 'grass-roots' capacity
building in China for the protection of the ozone layer.
China has come a long way since that 'grass root' awareness raising
campaign. This creative but effective mechanism to raise awareness
has made quite an impact on my mind. I experienced the awareness
raising activity that was action oriented, that used the real 'market
mechanism', that availed the opportunity when China's economy was
embracing globalisation. I found the similarity between the Chinese
approach and that of some of the green NGO's activism which uses
street as theatre! And is it not really a 'bottom-up' approach for
the capacity building ?
-- Rajendra Shende, firstname.lastname@example.org
2 May 2007
There are a myriad of ways to enjoy the city of Montreal. Walking
through a maze of underground walk-ways lined with modern and magnificent
shops, browsing through the books in a multi-story book store, sitting
in the bookstore's café
.. just to highlight a few of
Statistics shows that 40% of the people of Montreal shop in its
underground malls. During Montreal's notorious winters this percentage
must soar. Walking through the network of pathways, I reflected
on how 'modern society' lives. Was this not how primitive societies
lived, in underground caves, to protect themselves from the harsh
weather? Going backward to move forward, I thought.
And there is yet another benefit from spending most of the time
. Particularly in Montreal which lies on a high
latitude of the northern hemisphere. It protects the people of Montreal
from the sun's UV rays that penetrate through the stratosphere because
of the depletion of the ozone layer. Is this not adaptation to ozone
layer depletion? I mused... The people of Montreal have to wait
until 2050 for the ozone hole to close. And scientists say that,
due to late action on climate change, they will have to wait for
a further 15 years. By that time probably all of Montreal will have
moved underground. The underground life of the people of Montreal
also saves energy needed for heating and cooling the space and hence
help to mitigate climate change. One solution for two global problems!!
For me, one of the most enjoyable experiences in Montreal is to
visit an amazing place on Saint Catherine, a trendy shop called
'Future Shop', which carries the latest electronic and digital gadgets.
The fun of shopping there and buying the latest goods
the added joy of getting taxes back while leaving Canada is very
rewarding indeed! The staff of the shop not only explain the functioning
and utility of these gadgets, but can also give a futuristic estimate
of the 'next versions'. The digital "future" of mankind
is displayed there with extraordinary verve and vigor!! "Can
I get a 15 mega pixel camera?" I asked. "Wait for next
year" came the response from the salesman.
It is interesting that the landmark international agreement for
the protection of the Ozone Layer was signed in the city of Montreal,
and thus called 'The Montreal Protocol'. And it is not just a coincidence
that the Secretariat of the first ever Multilateral Fund dedicated
to assisting developing countries to implement this single-focus
(ozone layer protection) global accord agreement is located in the
city of Montreal. The Secretariat services the Executive Committee
of the Multilateral Fund which makes the funding decisions for the
activities in developing countries.
I recently led UNEP's delegation to the 51st meeting of the Executive
Committee which has succeeded over the last 15 years to provide
very effective assistance to developing countries and has realized
the desired impacts. I found that the discussions during that meeting
were turning futuristic. It was very gratifying to see the members
of the Executive Committee (seven from developed countries and seven
from developing countries) debating issues that would arise in future,
7 to 20 years from now! "Can we fund capacity building and
projects to phase-out HCFCs, which are to be phased-out more than
20 years from now?"
"Wait for next year",
was the decision.
An amazing Committee indeed, that has done extraordinary work for
the last 15 year and now looking into the Future
. The Montreal
Protocol's 'Future Shop' in Montreal!!
-- Rajendra Shende, email@example.com
Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog are
my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions
of my employer.
Rajendra Shende -blogger.