Race to Save the Sky…by 2010

This is the opening segment of an Asian film that we at TVE Asia Pacific produced in 2006 for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Called Return of the Ozone Layer: Are We There Yet? (30 mins, 2006), it tells the story of how the Asia Pacific – home to half of humanity – holds the key to saving the ozone layer…from man-made chemicals eating it up.

We presented it as a race…against time, and against many odds. Here’s how it opens.

You wouldn’t notice it even if you look carefully…but the Asia Pacific is running an important race.

It’s a race to phase out a group of chemicals used in industry, agriculture or consumer products.

When released to the atmosphere, these chemicals damage the Earth’s protective ozone layer. This ‘ozone shield’ protects all life from the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

These chemicals are used in refrigerators, air conditioners, fire fighting equipment, farming and a range of other products and processes.

The industrialised countries have already stopped producing these chemicals. This happened thanks to an international environmental treaty called the ‘Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer’. It was adopted in 1987 in response to the thinning of the ozone layer – or the ‘Ozone Hole’ –discovered two years earlier.

The Montreal Protocol sets time-bound, measurable targets for managing nearly 100 different chemicals.

These are closely tied to economic activity, public health and safety. Therefore, developing countries and economies in transition were given more time to reduce consumption — with the same goal of eventually phasing them out.

20 years on, the Montreal Protocol’s implementation has produced tremendous benefits to our health and environment.

But it’s a bit too early to celebrate.

Many challenges remain.

Developing countries now have to show they are making good use of the extra time and resources given to them.

It is the Asia Pacific that now produces and consumes most of the world’s Ozone Depleting Substances – or ODS. .

All production and use of CFCs in developing countries must stop in 2010.

But it’s easier said than done. The region has tens of thousands of small scale industries and farms that still use ozone damaging chemicals.

To accomplish the remaining phase-out targets, all
of them need to be engaged.

In this film, we look at key challenges the Asia Pacific region faces on the road to 2010. Meeting these challenges would ensure timely compliance of phase-out targets.

Clearly, governments alone cannot win this race. Millions of ordinary citizens have to join in.

Millions like the five we feature in this film.

Making this 30-minute documentary was a challenge. For a start, we had to grapple with complex scientific, economic and political issues and present them in a non-technical, accessible manner. We knew the average viewer was not interested in the intricacies of inter-governmental negotiations or atmospheric chemical reactions.

Talking about the ozone layer – which is out of sight, lying a few kilometers above the Earth’s surface – is never easy. It’s harder to get people to pay attention that sustained action is needed to remove man-made threats to the ozone layer.

Our challenge was to tell the story in a simple, engaging way — and UNEP wanted it to be different from many ozone layer documentaries already made. That’s when we decided to focus on five ordinary Asians who were doing their bit to save the ozone layer.

As our opening narration put it:

Five ordinary people, living and working in the Asia Pacific – the world’s largest and most diverse region.

Their actions will impact the future of life on our planet.

And there are millions more like them.

This is their story.

Watch the entire film (in several parts) on TVEAP’s YouTube channel.

September 2007 blog post: Ozzy Ozone: The Little molecule on a big mission