Speech delivered at Foreign Correspondents Club of China

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Sealing the Hole and Sealing the Deal: Convenient opportunity

To address

Inconvenient truth.


By Rajendra Shende, Head OzonAction, United nations Environment Programme, Paris

17th September 2009

By middle of December 2009, just about couple of months from now, when the Copenhagen climate summit would be over, the world would wake up to either of two dawning realisations i.e. the meaningful and adequate ‘deal is sealed’ to set humanity on the right track to address climate change or we have set the world on life threatening runaway wild fire. We are today uncertain on outcome.


Just about fortnight from thence, on 1st January 2010, the world would wake up to a definite and certain reality i.e. a world without chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone depleting substances. On that day the production and consumption chemicals that harm the life supporting ozone layer would be assigned to the history books. Already more than 98 percent of these man-made chemicals have been eliminated by man-made international accord called The Montreal Protocol. No financial crisis, no food crises, no flue crises can stop this dawning reality. Such is the determination of the humanity to ‘seal the ozone hole’.


The story of uncertainty of complex international climate negotiations and the global certainty of ozone layer protection sends out powerful messages. China like other developing countries has been part of these stories and lessons.

The story of the Montreal Protocol teaches us lessons on common but differentiated responsibilities between developed and developing countries. And more importantly it conveys the advantages of prudent foresight of taking preventive approaches at the right time. These and other messages, would no doubt be useful for the governments around the world who are already “on the road to Copenhagen” to make new a deal on climate change.

What is less known is the fact that the Montreal Protocol has ‘bailed out’ the climate change crises. As CFCs are also powerful Green House Gases ( GHGs) having potential to warm the earth few thousand times more than Carbon Dioxide, by phasing them out, the Montreal Protocol has achieved the reduction of GHG emissions at least 5 times more than the emissions targeted under the Kyoto Protocol. Further more the energy efficiency improvements that have come along with CFC phase out have infected provided triple benefits: ozone protection, climate mitigation and economic savings.

The Montreal Protocol is continuing its long march. The Parties to the Protocol-now the whole world with its 196 countries-have agreed to accelerate the last ozone depleting chemicals i.e. HCFCs. This group of chemicals are mainly used in the Air conditioning and refrigeration. HCFCs harm the ozone layer, but more importantly they cause serious damage to climate due to its global warming potential of 2000 times more than carbon dioxide. And as it happened with CFCs, the alternative to HCFCs also stands to improve the energy efficiencies. Commercial and residential air conditioning boom in China would benefit from this quiet revolution by energy conservation. Just few percentages of improvements in energy efficiency in air conditioning in China would have potential to make the power generation from Three Gorges dam redundant.

A convenient opportunity to address the inconvenient truth.

As we walk on the road to Copenhagen, the road signs of technological green opportunities in the midst of the crisis are evident. As we all get geared up to face the defining challenge of our times i.e. the UNFCCC’s meeting in Copenhagen, the UN has launched a campaign for a synchronized and focused global action under a slogan to urge the governments, industry and civil society to strike a deal. The campaign is called ‘Seal the Deal’. It aims to galvanize political will and public support towards signing a UN agreement on climate. But this campaign is not just a slogan. It is tested I real life with similar global action to ‘seal the hole’.

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