Default image for pages

By Gabrielle Dreyfus & Noah Horowitz

On December 2, world leaders gathered at COP28 for the first Summit on Methane and non-CO₂ Greenhouse Gases. This gathering highlighted the importance of tackling super pollutants, including hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), in slowing warming in the near term to keep climate targets within reach. Our national leaders took a significant step towards delivering on this fast mitigation strategy with the recent decision to nearly double contributions to the Multilateral Fund (MLF) for the implementation of the Montreal Protocol to nearly $1 billion USD over the next three years.

The Montreal Protocol is widely hailed as the world’s most effective environmental treaty, protecting both the stratospheric ozone layer and the global climate. Lesser known is that its financial mechanism, the MLF, is the world’s most efficient source of funding for climate mitigation, costing just $0.07 to $1 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO₂e) mitigated, according to a new report.

More funding for the MLF means more opportunity for immediate-term mitigation over the next three years, including new and emerging opportunities for advanced action, lifecycle refrigerant management, and closing loopholes like the feedstock exemption that has allowed for the continued production and leakage of climate and ozone-damaging substances.

Why is this such a worthy investment?

The report, by authors from the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), highlights the efficacy of the MLF as a key to the success of the Montreal Protocol.

Looking back at success, the MLF has already assisted emerging economies in 144 countries to avoid over 51 billion tonnes of CO₂e greenhouse gas emissions since 1991.

Looking ahead, the report by IGSD and LBNL finds that fully funding the MLF could deliver more than 750 million metric tonnes of avoided emissions over the next three years — the equivalent of taking 150 million cars off the road for a whole year. Continued investment in the MLF to phasedown HFCs would avoid more than 30 billion metric tonnes of CO₂e through 2050. Plus, if refrigerant replacement is paired with improved energy efficiency and sound lifecycle refrigerant management, emission reductions could be doubled (or more) with the adoption of best practice policies.

Going forward, the reduced emissions can come at a cost of less than $1 per tonne of CO₂e, a bargain compared to most lower-cost mitigation options in industrial sectors closer to $20 per tonne — nearly 300 times more expensive.

The unique promise of the Multilateral Fund

While other financial channels are focusing on clean energy, maximizing the climate benefits of sustainable cooling equipment is readily achievable thanks to the proven track record of the Montreal Protocol and its effective institutions. The programs employed include replacing refrigerants with low global warming potential substitutes, improving energy efficiency in cooling equipment, and preventing the release of used refrigerants through lifecycle refrigerant management.

This near-doubling of the MLF to $965 million follows through on the commitment made in 2016 with the Kigali Agreement to phase down HFCs while improving the energy efficiency of cooling. Continuing to fully fund the MLF could transform the sustainable cooling sector. The report details potential climate and energy benefits “as among the very best investments for planetary protection and resilience building.”

A warming planet requires even more cooling

Faced with “global boiling,” more and more people will need access to sustainable cooling that doesn’t further warm the planet. This means scaling passive cooling solutions and increasing access to affordable, energy-efficient, and climate-friendly air conditioning and refrigeration. Meeting this need requires transforming the air conditioning and refrigeration sectors. This is one reason that COP28 is being heralded as the “Cooling COP” and will feature the launch of the Global Cooling Pledge on December 5.

Under the Kigali Amendment agreed to in 2016, the Montreal Protocol is now working to enable a transition to climate-friendly cooling that is also more energy efficient. By phasing down the use of climate-polluting HFCs, the Kigali Amendment is putting us on a path to avoid as much as 0.5° C by 2100, in addition to the 2.5° C listed above. The work includes significantly more benefits from improvements in energy efficiency and lifecycle refrigerant management.

For the past three decades, the Montreal Protocol and its Multilateral Fund have been shaping the cooling industry while putting the stratospheric ozone layer on the path to recovery and protecting the climate. It is no surprise when tallying its accomplishments, including phasing out 99% of ozone-depleting substances, putting the stratospheric ozone layer on track to recover by the 2060s, and avoiding as much as 1° C of warming through 2050, that former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the Montreal Protocol “the most successful environmental treaty in history.”

On 14 November 2023, the U.S.-China agreed on the Sunnylands Statement on Enhancing Cooperation to Address the Climate Crisis. The Sunnylands Statement is a significant announcement showing renewed U.S. and China commitment to climate leadership ahead of COP 28 and beyond, including hosting with the UAE a Methane and Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases Summit at COP 28.

The Sunnylands Statement is an important additional step to implement the climate architecture that President Biden and his climate envoy John Kerry articulated at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in April 2023: fast action to keep the 1.5°C guardrail in sight and make this decade the decade of action with a focus on mitigation strategies that can cut warming the most in the shortest time including methane, HFCs, and other non-CO2 climate pollutants. The non-CO2 super climate pollutants together are responsible for nearly half of historic warming, and, if cut quickly, can avoid 4 X more warming at 2050 than decarbonization alone.

Importantly, the Sunnylands Statement paves the way for U.S.-China engagement and cooperation on key climate priorities in the run-up to COP 28 and beyond. The “Sunnylands legacy” includes the meeting in 2013 between President Obama and President Xi which helped build the consensus needed to adopt the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on HFCs in 2016 and chart a path toward eventual HFC phaseout. In the same way, the Sunnylands Statement reflects a “start and strengthen” approach to address the climate crisis.

At the 15 November 2023 meeting between President Biden and President Xi Jinping, “[t]he two leaders underscored the importance of working together to accelerate efforts to tackle the climate crisis in this critical decade. They welcomed recent positive discussions between their respective special envoys for climate, including on national actions to reduce emissions in the 2020s, on common approaches toward a successful COP 28, and on operationalizing the Working Group on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s to accelerate concrete climate actions.”

To realize the potential of the Sunnylands Statement to address the climate emergency, there is still a massive amount of work to be done. The Statement identifies opportunities for further understanding and ambition-strengthening actions in these top two GHG-emitting countries, including on the energy transition from fossil fuels, the mitigation of methane, HFCs, nitrous oxide and other non-CO2 climate pollutants, the development of resource efficiency and a circular economy, the synergistic control of GHGs and other air pollutants, on climate cooperation at the subnational level, and on combating deforestation.

Aside from action adopted at the national and subnational levels, the Statement underscores the role of multilateralism in solving the climate crisis. It echoes the provisions on strengthening global methane governance and cooperation in the China Methane Emissions Control Action Plan (IGSD translation, here). It also points to the importance of international advocacy, including discussions at the upcoming COP 28 Methane and Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases Summit (paragraph 22, Sunnylands Statement) and other activities that can build the foundation for developing a mandatory global methane agreement.

In the Sunnylands Statement, the U.S. and China commit to include actions/targets to address economy-wide emissions of all GHGs in their 2035 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). In this regard, recall also that the U.S. and China mentioned that “[b]oth countries intend to communicate 2035 NDCs in 2025” in the U.S.-China Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s (10 November 2021). It is useful to keep in mind, in light of the intention reflected in the Joint Glasgow Declaration and the commitments in the Sunnylands Statement, that the year 2035 is not when the two countries will “commence” action on the goals reflected in these sections. We also note that the year 2035 is a transition point when the U.S. and China have undertaken to complete respective, major transformations (including the Biden Administration’s ambitious goal of achieving a carbon pollution-free power sector) relevant to the Sunnylands Statement commitment to include all GHGs in their NDCs and reflect reductions aligned with the Paris Agreement temperature goals.

Additional IGSD and IGSD partner China Briefings:

LL.M. alumni on multiple continents address the urgent challenges of climate change.

Harvard profiled four of their LL.M alumni working with IGSD who have played a critical role in the efforts to avert the worst effects of global warming and preserve a livable planet: Maxime Beaugrand LL.M. ’01, IGSD Director of the Paris Office, Xiaopu Sun LL.M. ’08, IGSD Senior China Counsel, and Selena Bateman LL.M. ’23 and Eoin Jackson LL.M. ’23, IGSD Law Fellows. Long-time IGSD collaborator Antonio (Tony) Oposa Jr. LL.M. ’97, was also recognized.

The IGSD team promotes fast-action climate mitigation, with expertise ranging from climate litigation to ongoing implementation of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol to a proposal for a Global Methane Agreement inspired by the Montreal Protocol.

Lawyers are well-positioned to play a critical role both in the short-term sprint to mitigate climate risk as well as in the marathon to achieve decarbonization and attain net zero by 2050. As John Kerry, the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, said in an address to the American Bar Association, “You are all climate lawyers now.”

Rather than being limited to those with environmental or public law backgrounds, the challenge ahead requires lawyers with expertise and new ideas from across the spectrum of legal specialties and sectors. As demonstrated by the work of these LL.M. alums, combating climate change is a collaborative, multi-generational, and multi-dimensional undertaking.

See World Class: November 2023, Alumni Spotlight.

On January 9, 2023, the Governments of Chile and Colombia submitted a joint request for an advisory opinion (AO) before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (the Court) on “The Climate Emergency and Human Rights”. The Court accepted the request in March 2023 and set 18 December 2023 as the deadline for submitting written observations.

As established in the preamble of the request, the objective of the Advisory Opinion is to clarify the foundations and scope of the human rights affected by the climate emergency in the Americas, along with the obligations of States to protect those rights by addressing the causes and consequences of climate change, taking into account considerations of equity, justice, and sustainability.

IGSD, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), and the Center for Human Rights and Environment (CEDHA) are preparing amici, as well as helping other institutions and individuals with their amici submissions.

To support the process, IGSD has prepared several background documents on scientific and legal considerations at the nexus of climate change and human rights:

General Recommendations for a Strong Amicus

To increase the likelihood that the Court will be able to consider and integrate the content of an amicus the following is suggested:

  1. Include a one- to two-page summary of the core messages of your amicus
  2. Select a limited number of key issues or messages within your area of expertise, rather than addressing all questions or considerations presented by the request for the advisory opinion.
  3. Submit the amicus prior to the final deadline.
  4. Invite organizations or persons with special expertise to join in the preparation and authorship of your amicus.

Context

Two other international tribunals have also received requests for similar opinions – The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Request for Advisory Opinion submitted by the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law and climate change – Deadline 16 June 2023) and the International Court of Justice (Request for an Advisory Opinion from the United Nations General Assembly on the obligation of states regarding climate change – Deadline for amicus submission 20 October 2023).

Taken together, these three opinions have the potential to strengthen the laws and legal institutions of the world in relation to the responsibilities, decisions, and activities of States and private actors with respect to the climate emergency.

The Advisory Opinion of the IACtHR may be the first to be issued of the three, and therefore its content could be considered by the two other tribunals. The Advisory Opinion before the Inter-American Court is human rights centered. As such, given the Court doctrine, Judiciaries will be required to exercise a “conventionality control” between the domestic legal provisions, which are applied to specific cases, and the American Convention on Human Rights.

Spanish translation here.

7 November 2023 — Today China released its long-awaited Methane Emissions Control Action Plan (“Action Plan”, English translation here). The Action Plan was jointly issued by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) together with ten other national ministries and agencies. This reflects the extensive interagency review that MEE had to undertake to secure State Council approval for release of the Plan. This situation also underscores the importance of interagency coordination for effective implementation of the Action Plan. Indeed, this Action Plan serves as an important step in that MEE is taking the lead on methane mitigation in terms of interagency coordination and policy/standard strengthening.

The Action Plan highlights as key priorities the improvement of the monitoring, reporting, and verification system for methane emissions, as well as methane-emissions control actions in the energy, agriculture, and waste sectors. It is also noteworthy that the Action Plan aims to strengthen the synergistic control of methane and other pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds.

With regard to the quantitative targets, the Action Plan does not provide a comprehensive methane mitigation goal.1 Instead, it lists sectoral methane-mitigation targets, including:

Additionally, future strengthening and improvement of mandatory standards and regulatory measures are also critical for the implementation and strengthening of this Action Plan. Indeed, the Action Plan provides some guidance on this front, including further improvement of coal mine safety regulations for methane mitigation and methane emission standards for coalbed methane. As an incentive mechanism, the Action Plan also promotes the inclusion of methane mitigation and reutilization projects in the greenhouse gas voluntary emission trading system.

Additionally, the Action Plan emphasizes that China will actively engage in international cooperation and exchanges on methane mitigation, including through China’s Climate-Change South-South Cooperation efforts and the Belt and Road Initiative.

1 Note that Lin et al. (2022) identified that China’s methane mitigation potential is estimated at 469 MtCO₂e in 2030, or the equivalent of 35% reduction from 2015 levels.

IGSD’s annotated, English reference translation of the China Methane Emissions Action Plan is available here.

Additional IGSD and IGSD partner China Briefings:

El 9 de enero de 2023, los Gobiernos de Chile y Colombia presentaron una solicitud conjunta de opinión consultiva (AO) ante la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (la Corte) sobre “La Emergencia Climática y los Derechos Humanos”. La Corte acogió la solicitud en marzo de 2023 y fijó el 18 de diciembre 2023 como fecha límite para la presentación de las observaciones escritas de los interesados.

Tal como se establece en el preámbulo de la solicitud, el objetivo de la Opinión Consultiva es aclarar el fundamento y alcance de los derechos humanos afectados por la emergencia climática en las Américas, junto con las obligaciones de los Estados de proteger esos derechos abordando las causas y consecuencias del cambio climático, teniendo en cuenta consideraciones de equidad, justicia y sostenibilidad.

El Instituto para la Gobernanza y el Desarrollo Sostenible (IGSD), el Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL) y el Centro de Derechos Humanos y Medio Ambiente (CEDHA) han estado profundamente involucrados en el proceso de Opinión Consultiva desde su inicio.

Para apoyar el proceso, IGSD ha preparado varios documentos complementarios que brindan antecedentes sobre consideraciones científicas y legales en el nexo entre el cambio climático y los derechos humanos. Estos documentos están destinados a resaltar información y análisis clave que pueden respaldar la preparación de amici por parte de cualquier institución:

Recomendaciones para un Amicus Fuerte

Para aumentar la probabilidad de que la Corte pueda considerar e integrar el contenido de un amicus, se sugiere lo siguiente:

  1. Incluya un resumen de una o dos páginas de los mensajes principales de su amicus.
  2. Seleccione un número limitado de temas o mensajes clave dentro de su área de especialización, en lugar de abordar todas las preguntas o consideraciones presentadas por la solicitud de opinión consultiva.
  3. Presentar el amicus antes de la fecha límite final.
  4. Invitar a organizaciones o personas con experiencia especial a unirse a la preparación y autoría de su amicus.

Nota Contextual

Dos tribunales internacionales adicionales también han recibido solicitudes de opiniones similares – El Tribunal Internacional del Derecho del Mar (Solicitud de Opinión Consultiva presentada por la Comisión de Pequeños Estados Insulares sobre Cambio Climático y Derecho Internacional y el cambio climático) y la Corte Internacional de Justicia (Solicitud de Opinión Consultiva de la Asamblea General de Naciones Unidas sobre la obligación de los estados respecto el cambio climático). En su conjunto, estas tres opiniones tendrán una gran incidencia sobre las leyes e instituciones legales del mundo en relación con las responsabilidades, decisiones, y actividades de los Estados con respecto a la emergencia climática. En las Américas, el procedimiento consultivo es de suma importancia, no solamente por su influencia sobre las instituciones y las personas del hemisferio, sino porque esta opinión consultiva posiblemente será la primera que será emitida de las tres mencionadas, lo cual hace probable que su contenido sea considerado y tomado en cuenta por los otros tribunales internacionales.

Traducción en Inglés aquí.

Last Friday, as NYC Climate Week came to a close with its Summit of the Future at United Nations Headquarters, an international coalition of youth climate activists came together at Central Park in a powerful demonstration of solidarity and determination. Our shared goal: to demand that the upcoming advisory opinions on climate change and human rights from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Inter-American Court) have the ambition and urgency needed to ensure climate justice now.

The climate crisis is an unprecedented, escalating human rights emergency that significantly impacts young people’s rights to life, health, equal protection, and a healthy environment, among many other rights that further exacerbate young people’s ability to take part in decisions regarding our future. As the unequal effects of climate impacts are becoming more evident, young people are leading the way in demanding accountability from polluters.

However, with current policies, we are not acting fast enough to meet the climate emergency and are failing to ensure intergenerational climate justice, as climate commitments remain voluntary, action plans remain undefined, and we hurtle closer to breaching 1.5°C. Waiting for climate action, or even a 2°C target, is not enough to meet the climate emergency, and young people and frontline communities need solutions today.

Advisory opinions (AOs) can serve as one avenue to demand fast mitigation that can slow the rate of warming now to protect all of us before it is too late. As States have a duty of care obligation to protect their citizens, the AO movements before the ICJ and Inter-American Court provide a unique opportunity to demand climate justice. This is a very powerful chance for young people to engage with the courts in a meaningful way, urge courts to hold governments and corporate polluters accountable, and be heard and listened to in a way that empowers and uplifts our lived experiences and concerns about the climate emergency.

This includes calling for countries to ratify the Escazú Agreement that seeks to promote the rights of access to information, participation and justice in environmental issues and the protection of environmental defenders. This agreement is fundamental to ensuring transparent, participatory, and inclusive environmental and climate governance. Escazú came into force in April 2021 and has already been ratified by 15 countries, including Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay. Brazil signed the agreement in 2018 and the document has already been sent by the federal government to the National Congress. Now, the text needs to be approved by congressmen and senators, so that it can be subsequently ratified. We invite everyone to take part in the campaign, 513 Voices For Escazú, by sending their videos to pressure the Brazilian Congress through @escazubrasil.

Responding to a climate emergency requires a climate justice-centered approach, which includes strengthening human rights and climate protection for present and future generations within the 1.5°C target. Failing to act quickly on climate violates the principle of intergenerational equity and breaches international, regional, and domestic law. Through our rights-based systems, human rights courts can strengthen climate action, which includes (but is not limited to): ending fossil fuels, holding polluters accountable, transitioning to renewables, cutting 45% of methane emissions by 2030, stopping deforestation, ensuring that climate finance and mitigation does not replicate our histories of colonization, preserving and enhancing carbon sinks while respecting land rights, and protecting climate activists and environmental defenders.

As the world’s biggest historic polluter, the U.S. has a responsibility to lead a global and just transition into clean energy. Around 75,000 people took to the streets during NYC Climate Week to send a message: if the Biden administration doesn’t act, it risks losing a key part of its electoral base – tens of thousands of people who are frustrated with Biden’s inaction on climate and willing to take to the streets in protests. Our future has been taken over by oil and gas corporations and their government allies. They are trying to decide our futures, but we will not let them. We are taking back the power to determine our own future.

We are the last generation that can do something now to prevent surpassing the 1.5°C guardrail and keep the planet livable for current and future generations.

This is our message to world leaders and the world’s highest courts: the youth are watching, and we demand that the upcoming AOs call for ambitious and concrete climate action to protect intergenerational climate justice.

For more information about the campaign and to support our efforts, please reach out to us!

See additional information.

Media Contacts: 

FACE Intergenerational Justice, Trina Chiemi: trinachiemi@gmail.com

PISFCC, Siosiua Veikune: siosiua@pisfcc.org

A new report warns that multinational companies are exporting millions of inefficient air conditioners to Southeast Asia, taking advantage of loopholes in national laws and regulations. Because these units contain high global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants, this appliance dumping contributes to climate change, strains national energy grids, and burdens consumers with higher energy bills.

This report by CLASP, with support from IGSD, documents that five of the six Southeast Asian markets studied – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam – are saturated with low-efficiency room air conditioners (ACs), while only Singapore has efficient ACs with less-damaging refrigerants. The inefficient ACs are produced by multinational companies that make high-efficiency models for sale in their home country markets.

With record heatwaves sweltering Southeast Asia and elsewhere each year, demand for residential air conditioning is projected to rise rapidly to support the lives and livelihoods of billions. The report shows that if all six countries prevented inefficient AC dumping, it would reduce cumulative emissions over 25 years by more than 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. Over the same 25 years, the region would also save USD 148 billion cumulatively for consumers, exceeding the combined energy investment of the six analyzed countries over the last quarter century (USD 134 billion).

The report finds:

  • The dominant multinational brands responsible for this dumping are headquartered in China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States. Since the majority of electricity in Southeast Asia is generated by fossil fuels, energy-intensive RACs contribute towards substantial indirect carbon emissions.
  • In 2021, a notable 74% of total sales (6.2 million units) in the six markets were classified as low efficiency. However, sales of low-efficiency RACs vary by country. Indonesia and the Philippines are the most exposed to dated technology, with 97% and 78% of RACs, respectively, falling into this category, while in Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand the number is around 60%. Singapore had the most efficient RAC market, with just 21% of total sales being low-efficiency models.
  • Most RACs imported to Southeast Asia do not meet the applicable minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) of the export countries. This means these inefficient units cannot be sold in those domestic markets. Approximately 93% of RACs imported into Southeast Asia from China do not meet the efficiency requirements of China MEPS. 59% of RAC exports from South Korea to Southeast Asia and 21% of RAC exports from Japan to Southeast Asia are below the brands’ home-country requirements.
  • The six Southeast Asian RAC markets use HFC refrigerants that have high GWPs. R-410A, an obsolete refrigerant scheduled for phasedown under the Montreal Protocol, has a GWP of 2,088, meaning it is over 2,000 times the potency of carbon dioxide. RACs containing R-410A accounted for 35% of Southeast Asia sales in 2021, measuring highest in Singapore (90%) and Thailand (66%).

Commenting on the research, Christine Egan, CEO of CLASP, said, “In the midst of a global climate emergency where high temperature records are broken annually, it is disappointing that the production and sale of affordable efficient ACs does not extend across all markets in Southeast Asia. This research shows the added financial savings and emission reductions that can come from stopping the influx of obsolete, energy-guzzling appliances that provide life-saving cooling to millions of people.”

Tad Ferris, Senior Counsel at IGSD, cautioned, “This report warns of trade practices harmful to every living creature and ecosystem. The unchecked dumping of inefficient ACs using obsolete refrigerants is exacting an exorbitant toll in vulnerable Southeast Asian communities facing record-setting heat waves during the climate emergency. It is imperative to reverse this trajectory. This report underscores a suite of solutions that include collaborative commitments between multinational corporations and exporting and importing countries, to eliminate the high lifecycle cost of inefficient ACs with obsolete refrigerants.”

Drawing from the research, the report provides actionable recommendations to mitigate dumping. It emphasizes the urgency of implementing robust energy performance standards, fostering favorable trade practices, and enforcing anti-environmental dumping policies. These steps are pivotal to ensure sustainable cooling access while reducing negative impacts on the environment and energy systems.

About CLASP: CLASP is an international nonprofit leading the research and promotion of appliance efficiency and energy access to improve the lives of people and the planet. CLASP works with governments, industry, communities, and others to propel policies and markets toward the highest-quality, lowest resource-intensive products possible.

Left to Right: Dr. Donald Blake (colleague from UC Irving accepting for Sherry Rowland), Guadalupe Alvarez Limon (wife of Mario Molina accepting on his behalf), Dr. Stephen O. Andersen, Richard Branson, Marco Gonzalez, Dr. Johan Rockström, Jean Oelwang, and Dr. Suely Carvalho

18 September 2023 — During New York Climate Week, Virgin Group Founder and Executive Richard Branson and partners launched the “Planetary Guardians” initiative to use new science to persuade environmental authorities to make life on Earth sustainable and equitable for humans and other species.

New science pioneered by Johan Rockström (Rockström et al. 2009), Will Steffen (Steffen et al. 2015), Katherine Richardson (Richardson et al. 2023), and others defines “planetary boundaries” for nine processes the authors consider critical for maintaining Earth system stability and resilience. The framework delineates and quantifies the safe operating conditions that would continue global environmental functions and life-support systems similar to those experienced over the past ~10,000 years of the Holocene Epoch.

The premise of Planetary Guardians is that most of the defined Planetary Boundaries have already exceeded the “safe and just” Earth system boundaries, with more approaching those thresholds. The good news story is that when it was confirmed in the 1980s that stratospheric ozone depletion exceeded the safe Earth system boundary, public, corporate, and governmental organizations acted quickly to phase out ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) with the ozone layer expected to recover to a natural level so long as climate is simultaneously protected. Because most ODSs are also powerful greenhouse gases (GHGs) the phase-out also avoided a doubling of the atmospheric impact of carbon dioxide, which would have ended much of life on Earth.

Thus, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal Protocol) is proof that humans CAN organize to protect the global commons against exceeding planetary boundaries and is a case study of how governments and industry can work together with the United Nations to accomplish environmental miracles. One of many distinguishing features of the 7 Award winners are their deep connections, as documented in Jean Oelwang’s 2022 book Partnering: Forge the Deep Connections that Make Great Things Happen.

The Ozone Awards were introduced by Richard Branson, put in context by climate activist Ayisha Siddiqa, and delivered with elaboration by ocean scientist, explorer, and environmental activist Dr. Sylvia A. Earle at a gala event in New York City during Climate Week.

Richard Branson (Time 2023) explained:

“The Montreal Protocol—a triumph of collaboration between science, governments, multilaterals, and business—transformed entire industries, invested in science to track and understand the problem, and phased out 99% of ozone-depleting substances. Scientists now predict the ozone layer will largely be restored by 2060.”

“If there’s but one lesson to glean from the ozone example, it’s this: changing course isn’t a solo endeavor. It requires constant vigilance and radical collaboration.”

Stratospheric Ozone Champions received the Planetary Guardians Ozone Award

  • Professor F. Sherwood (“Sherry”) Rowland (1927-2012), who with Mario J. Molina discovered in 1974 that fluorocarbons migrate to the stratosphere and deplete ozone that shields Earth against damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation and subsequently campaigned successfully for phase out of production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) worldwide. Sherry was recognized with Professors Paul J. Crutzen and Mario J. Molina for saving life on Earth when they received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He was represented at the Planetary Guardians Ozone Award ceremony by Dr. Donald Blake, one of his last graduate students and later colleague at University of California (UC) Irving.
  • Professor Mario J. Molina, who with Professor F. Sherwood Rowland warned of stratospheric ozone depletion and subsequently campaigned to phase out ODSs under the Montreal Protocol. In 1975 Mario was appointed to the faculty at UC Irving and continued to collaborate with Sherry on their CFC Ozone Depletion Theory and began new independent work to investigate chemical and spectroscopic properties of compounds of atmospheric importance. After seven years at Irvine as Assistant and then Associate Professor, Mario joined the Molecular Physics and Chemistry Section at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) where he continued breakthrough science, including laboratory simulation with chlorine peroxide of the chemical effects of clouds over Antarctica, which turned out to be important in providing the explanation for the rapid loss of ozone in the polar stratosphere. Mario was recognized for saving life on earth with Professors Paul J. Crutzen and F. Sherwood Rowland when they received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He was represented at the Planetary Guardians Ozone Award ceremony by Guadalupe Alvarez Limon, his wife.
  • Jonathan Shanklin, who with Joseph Farman and Brian G. Gardiner in 1985 warned of the ozone hole above Antarctica and implied that it must be caused by fluorocarbons.
  • Marco Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Montreal Protocol Ozone Secretariat from 2002-2013, who secured universal ratification and the 2007 HCFC Adjustment that made the Montreal Protocol a Climate Treaty.
  • Helen Tope, Member of the Montreal Protocol Technology and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP) from 1995-present, who for over 30 years masterfully guided the phase-out of medical, aerosol, and chemical uses of ODSs and now the phase down of hydrofluorocarbon chemicals that are greenhouse gases.
  • Suely Carvalho, Co-Chair of the TEAP from 1993-2001, Director of the Montreal Protocol and Chemicals Unit at United Nations Development Program (UNDP) from 2001-2013 where she coordinated implementation of ODS technology conversion and technical assistance projects in over 100 developing countries. Suely has held numerous other senior positions protecting ozone and climate over more than 35 years.
  • Stephen O. Andersen, Co-author of a 1974 assessment of the impact of ozone depletion and climate change on northern latitude grain yields, founder of TEAP and Co-Chair from 1989-2012, Deputy Director of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) Stratospheric Protection Division, and Liasson to the US Department of Defense on Stratospheric Ozone and Climate. Stephen created the first EPA voluntary partnerships as well as helping organize and manage the USEPA Stratospheric Ozone and Climate Protection Awards.

Who are the “Planetary Guardians”?

The official Planetary Guardians as agreed at the launch include Xiye Bastida, Ralph Chami, Sylvia Earle, Farwiza Farhan, Jane Goodall, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Naoko Ishii, Sunita Narain, Robert Redford, Mary Robinson, Juan Manuel Santos, Ayisha Siddiqa, and David Suzuki.

The “Planetary Guardians” a new collective of world leaders, climate activists, business executives, and celebrities drawn together by Richard Branson and the Virgin Unite Foundation. The Planetary Guardians plan to motivate the United Nations and national governments to safeguard Earth.

For more details:

October 2, 1951 – July 13, 2023 Douglas Varchol, an American filmmaker whose documentary works educated and urged action by government and civil society leaders to support social and environmental justice, died 13 July 2023 in Los Angeles. A decade-long part-time resident of Thailand, he was 71 years old and leaves his life partner, Karn Racharak of Pattaya, and a legacy of films shown internationally through public broadcast and digital platforms, human rights and environmental film festivals, and at conferences around the globe addressing critical public policy concerns. He was also committed to nurturing the creativity of next generation of leaders of civil society.

Continue reading on the Los Angeles Times.

Watch the Los Angeles Times video obituary here.