About UNEP
UNEP
UNEP DTIE OzonAction Branch
OzonAction Programme
  UNEP > DTIE > OzonAction Branch Search
 
 
.

Ozone Blog

Archive

29 June 2010 "Sense of Direction: Columbus Way"
1 May 2010 Montreal Mooring
26 March 2010 Piloting the Environment - Business and Diplomacy - the Middle Eastern way
14 February 2010 On the Pacific Rim of Fire
25 January 2010 From Copenhagen to Copenhagen
9 December 2009 Port Ghalib and Hussan Fathyt
24 September 2009 Sustaining - unsustainability: storing CO2 for next generation
25 August 2009 English in French Ocean
29 June 2009 Bail-out and Stimulus Package: Yes for Economic crisis, No for Climate crisis?
27 April 2009 Road not taken: Montreal-Kyoto-Copenhagen
9 January 2009 Panama Canal & Poznan Cannel
23 December 2008 Doha Round
3 November 2008 3R, 4R or 5R
14 October 2008 The week of tremors: Japan, Stratosphere & Financial Markets
25 July 2008 Early warning - early action - naturellement (naturally)!
1 July 2008 Human rights violation and global environmental challenge
16 April 2008 Axis of History
23 March 2008 All that is empty is not a "hole"
22 January 2008 20th Anniversary of MP... I mean Mobile Phones!
21 December 2007 Story of Bali
13 December 2007 Are we there yet?
16 October 2007 Wine and the Ozone Layer: Lessons to be learned in Climate Change
28 August 2007 Gold Medal for China: A new Olympic event called "Leap-Frogging"
3 August 2007 Telling Mother on Protecting Mother Earth,
From hole to hole: Story of the Mongolian marmot;
9 July 2007 Cloising means Opening! A dictionary of the Montreal Protocol
22 June 2007 Bhutan, The Kingdom of Nature!
12 April 2007 Something to Declare, Yet Walking through the Green Zone
28 February 2007 Back to the Future
15 February 2007 How the Montreal Protocol implements the Kyoto Protocol: the Untold Story
1 February 2007 Raising Awarenesswith Chinese Characters


"Seoul Searching", a blog by Rajendra Shende"Seoul Searching"
By Rajendra Shende
rmshende@unep.org
1 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 term.

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.

The 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.



END


Stone Age and Age of HCFCs

Maldives
By Rajendra Shende
rmshende@unep.org
29 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 Asterix. Ancient GaulThe 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.

AsterixThere, 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.
President Mohamed NasheedThat 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 decades."

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 potion.

I am sure the Julius Cesars of the world must be saying - "Ils sont fous ces Maldiviens"!!

END


"Sense of Direction: Columbus Way"

Workshop: 'cooling without warming
By Rajendra Shende
rmshende@unep.org
17May 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.

TransmilenioI 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.

END


Montreal Mooring

Volcano eruption

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.org
1May 2010

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 human progress!

END


Piloting the Environment- Business & Diplomacy
- the Middle Eastern way

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.org
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" he said.

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".



Vanuatu
On the Pacific Rim of Fire

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.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 earth"

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.

VanuatuNext 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 of Pacific.

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.


Bella CentreFrom Copenhagen to Copenhagen

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.org
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 Protocol.

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 Change.

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 hope so.

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.

END


Port GhalibPort Ghalib and Hussan Fathyt

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.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 benefits.

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.

END


carbon capture storageSustaining un-sustainability: Storing CO2 for next generation

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.org
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 change problem.

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?

END



Nigeria Good People Great Nation English in French Ocean

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.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 of India.

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 Ozone Units.

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 begins.

END


The White HouseBail-out and Stimulus Package: Yes for Economic crisis, No for Climate crisis?


By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.org
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 might be.

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.

END


The White HouseRoad not taken: Montreal-Kyoto-Copenhagen

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.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…the 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.

Kennedy Center, Washington D.C.On 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.

END




CanalPanama Canal & Poznan Cannel


by Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr
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, I thought.

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 other.

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.

END


DohaDoha Round


by Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr
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 world.

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.


Bonsai3 R, 4 R or 5 R


by Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr
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 and Reincarnate!

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!




Mount FujiThe week of tremors: Japan, Stratosphere & Financial Markets

by Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr
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!

ozone holeIn 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 day!"

Wall Street image by Ramy MajoujiThe 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!".

END


vineyardEarly warning - early action - naturellement (naturally)!

by Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr
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!

END


horserideHuman rights violation and global environmental challenge

 

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr
1July 2008

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 human rights.

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 polar region.

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.


 

la Grande Arche Paris

Axis of History

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr
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 in networking.

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 development!


Ozone Hole, Bore Hole

All that is empty is not a 'hole'!

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr
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 distant thunder?"

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 environmental problems.

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!

 

 




20th Anniversary of MP... I mean Mobile Phones!

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr
22 January 2008

horserideJust 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- GSM.

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 Layer.

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 or non-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!


horserideStory of Bali

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr
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 emissions.

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.


horserideAre we there yet?

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr
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 ozone holes."

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!"


Wine and the Ozone Layer: Lessons to be learned in Climate Change

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr
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 global treaty.

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 UV rays?

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?


Gold Medal for China: A new Olympic event called "Leap-Frogging"


By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr,
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 and Improvement".

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.


Mongolian marmot holeTelling Mother on Protecting Mother Earth

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr
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 countries?

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.

Mother: Wow …. 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… and 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 works. END



Mongolian marmot holeFrom hole to hole: Story of the Mongolian marmot

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr
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 decades.

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.



Rajendra ShendeClosing means Opening!
A dictionary of the Montreal Protocol

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr
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 anti-business slogans!

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 world!

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.


Bhutan, The Kingdom of Nature!

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr
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 energy.

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 "… enact environmental 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 intergenerational equity.

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. Naturally!


Something to Declare, Yet Walking through the Green Zone

By Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr

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 manual.

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…and 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.


Back to the Future
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 civilization began.

-- Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr


How the Montreal Protocol implements the Kyoto Protocol: the Untold Story
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 references.

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 Kyoto Protocol.

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 development tools.

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 was negotiated.

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 wider audience.

-- Rajendra Shende, rmshende@unep.fr


Raising Awareness with Chinese Characters
Paris, 1 February 2007

International Ozone Day September 1995Being 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 importance.

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, rmshende@unep.fr


The Future Shop: Land Mark in Montreal
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 the pleasures.

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 underground …. 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….with 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, rmshende@unep.fr

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.

  
© UNEP DTIE 2007 | updated 19-jul-10