Montreal Protocol at 25: Celebrating Ozone Safe Generation!

On 16 September, the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer will be observed once again all over the world. This year’s theme is “Protecting our atmosphere for generations to come”.

Exactly 25 years ago, governments of the world came together at a historic conference in Montreal, Canada, to adopt the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

In a quarter century, it has rallied governments and industries in both developed and developing countries to phase out, or substantially reduce, nearly 100 chemicals that damage the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere.

The Ozone Secretariat and UNEP OzonAction have jointly produced two 30-second videos mark the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol (MP).

These Public Service Announcements (PSAs) hail the extraordinary achievements of this Multilateral Environmental Agreement over a quarter century. They also project the MP as a protector of our shared atmosphere for generations to come.

The first PSA briefly introduces the ozone layer depletion issue and highlights its recovery that was made possible when countries of the world joined hands for saving the ozone layer – a global action at its best.

The second PSA revolves around the multiple benefits of the Protocol: it is not just a treaty protecting the ozone layer, but has multiple benefits for our biodiversity, climate, human health and the global economy.

The third version of this PSA (below) is twice as long, gives more info and moves at a more leisurely pace.

These PSAs, made by friends in the UK are proof that even a highly esoteric and technical subject like ozone protection can be presented in engaging, human interest terms.

Growing up in an Ozone Safe World: that’s worth celebrating!

Tata Young: Singing up a storm for the Ozone Layer

Tata Young - photo by Nirmal Ghosh

Tata Young - photo by Nirmal Ghosh

“Tata Young sings up a storm for Ozone Layer.”

That was a headline in the Bangkok Post newspaper on 8 October 2009, while I was in Thailand for the Ozone Media Roundtable. My friends at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) were ecstatic.

Tata Young, 28, is a Thai-American singer, model and actress who is one of the best known performers in Thailand, with a growing following across Southeast Asia. Last week, she was among the performers at the “What on Earth!” concert in Bangkok, part of the EU Green Days event to coincide with the latest round of negotiations of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UN-FCCC.

Tata is the latest Asian entertainment celebrity to join the climate bandwagon. Inside the UN Convention Centre in Bangkok, the climate negotiations were making slow progress. Environmental activists and campaigners were trying every trick in their books to speed things up — but governments bickered over selfish interests even as the planet heated up.

Tata’s newest album, Ready for Love, has its cover printed on recycled paper and sports a sticker that says “Protect the Ozone Layer”. Her interest in campaigning for ozone was sparked when she donated her time filming an ozone related public service announcement for UNEP last year.

The PSA is one of four that UNEP’s ozone team in Asia produced in 2008 as part of their public awareness campaign. They all draw attention to an important date that is drawing close: by or before 1 January 2010, all consumption and production of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, one of the main destroyers of the ozone layer would be phased out in all countries of the world. That is a significant achievement under the Montreal Protocol that nations of the world adopted in 1987 to save the endangered ozone layer.

The PSAs started screening in movie theatres in the Philippines earlier this year, to be followed by Thailand and other countries in the region.

Watch Tata Young’s ozone PSA for UNEP:

In June this year, talking to journalist Nirmal Ghosh, Tata Young said: “It’s important that people are aware of the little things you can do to protect our world, are aware (of ozone) and know what’s going on, especially because unlike garbage and other types of pollution, you can’t see the ozone layer.”

Read the full text on Nirmal’s blog: More Than Just Hot Air, 4 June 2009

Tata is now singing and speaking for the ozone layer on her own steam. Unlike some other UN agencies, UNEP does not have a formal goodwill ambassador programme. But she has de facto become one.

Full credit to her for this choice. After all, the Ozone Layer – located between 10 and 50 kilometres above the Earth, and invisible to the naked eye – is not something tangible like cuddly animals or endangered plants. Moving ordinary people to care for something they can’t see or touch is that much harder, even if all life on Earth depends critically on it (the Ozone Layer absorbs most of the Sun’s harmful ultra-violet days).

Tata used to hit the headlines in Thailand for some songs which were considered a little too ‘hot’ for the conservative guardians of culture. But looking at the less-than-glacial pace kept by climate change talks in Bangkok, perhaps activists should roll out Tata Young to turn on the heat…