DPI/NGO Briefing: The Ozone Layer and Climate Change

The DPI/NGO briefing on The Ozone Layer and Climate Change held June 18th, presented some important insights on this pressing topic that has been engaging the global scientific community. The six panelists represented a fusion of science and industry and were professionals whose areas ranged from that of a NASA scientist to a Coca-Cola executive. Laura Trevelyan, the BBC's UN correspondent, moderated and guided the discussion of the complex issues in a manner that allowed all present to gain a good basic understanding of the subject.

Dr. Paul Newman, NASA, opened the panel presentation, speaking for the thousands of members of the international scientific community who have strived to produce research on the climate change phenomenon. He was also the bearer of good news, predicting that the ozone hole above Antarctica, currently the size of the North American continent, will largely disappear by 2065, attributing this to the Montreal Protocol, which includes initiatives on reducing chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs, one of the “greenhouse gas” categories.

Jose Igancio Pons, President of CAVEA, Aerosol Chamber of Venezuela, championed the developing world's perspective on this sometimes contentious issue, reiterating the need to make well-balanced and fair decisions in the fight against global climate change. He joined the briefing via videoconference from Venezuela.

Lisa Manling, Director of Sustainability Communications, The Coca-Cola Company, outlined her company's global business model before moving on to describe the three ways in which the company works to prevent climate change: energy management, water stewardship and sustainable packaging. She highlighted the biggest contributor within the company to greenhouse gas emissions — the sales and marketing footprint — and the strategies the company had developed to reduce it.

Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, reiterated the need to take action beyond the existing protocols. He stressed that while the Earth is committed to a 2.4 degree increase in worldwide temperature, there are steps the human population can take to prevent a further rise.

Kiyotaka Akasaka, Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information, made a short presentation highlighting some of the initiatives taking place within the United Nations organization, such as the “Cool U.N.” campaign which aims to reduce the Secretariat's carbon footprint by raising the air conditioning thermostat from 72 Fahrenheit to 77 at the New York headquarters. He also introduced the “Seal the Deal” campaign that the United Nations is launching, in anticipation of the summit meeting in Copenhagen this December. The success of this campaign is crucial to the United Nations climate change strategy, as the standards set by the earlier Kyoto Protocol expire in 2013. The deadline for a new treaty to be hammered out, therefore, falls this year.

Rajendra Shende, representing OzonAction — a Paris-based partnership of UNEP, UNESCO and WHO — emphasized the need to create a meaningful agreement, especially one that had provisions to phase out hydro chlorofluorocarbons or HCFCs. He cited the reluctance to learn from past mistakes as the biggest obstacle facing the upcoming talks in Copenhagen, a sentiment shared by the other panelists.

The discussion helped to shed important and demystifying light on these issues, helping many members of the audience gain a better understanding of climate change.

The inclusion of the corporate perspective within this briefing was valuable and somewhat unique, highlighting the essential role of industry in a collective quest to fight global warming and climate change.

Reported by Harsh Govil, Intern (Groton School '10)