From Copenhagen to Copenhagen

From Copenhagen to Copenhagen

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.

Rajendra Shende


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