International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer 2013

Sep 22, 2013


Bismillah – hey – Rahman – ur – Rehim,

Salaam va Sobhe be kheyr

Your Excellency, Vice-President Madam Ebtekar,

Dr. Shafiepour, Dr. Hajizadeh, and National Ozone Unit colleagues, respected delegates from the government, industry, civil society – my colleagues form the United Nations – ladies and gentlemen.

Let me start by congratulating you, Madam Ebtekar, on your re-appointment to this important post.  Having listened to your words and the vision you communicate a few moments ago, I have no doubt that we will be able to work jointly to preserve the environment.  I especially welcome your wish to work closely with the international community and your recognition of the role of “environmental diplomacy”.

Today I start with a positive and optimistic message. 

But I will end on a note of great concern for all of us.

The Montreal Protocol is widely – and appropriately – considered to be one of the world’s most successful multilateral environmental agreements.

The reason is simple.  This Protocol has been responsible for phasing out nearly 100 percent of ozone-depleting substances.  It has done so based on sound scientific, technical and economic advice.  The Protocol succeeded – in part – because it was rooted in a community of knowledge which was focused on a single goal – how to build a healthy atmosphere for the generations to come.

The Protocol has involved important partnerships with industry.  Mr. Hajizadeh has correctly referred, just now, to how the Government and industry have worked “shoulder-to-shoulder”.

It has been underpinned by a dedicated financial mechanism called the “Multilateral Fund” – or MLF – which supported businesses while they converted to environmentally-friendly alternatives.

The Montreal Protocol of 1987 has done its job. 

CFC emissions are almost at an end now – and so, today, we commemorate the 26th Anniversary.

Iran has played an important role in this.  So let’s turn our attention to Iran’s success in implementing the Protocol.  Since 1990, Iran has been able to achieve its phase-out targets for:

  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs),
  • Halons,
  • Carbon tetrachloride (CTC),
  • Methyl Chloroform and
  • Methyl Bromide

which are consumed in the country. 

Since January 2012, Iran has also been implementing the HCFC phase-out Management Plan in partnership with the United Nations.  The implementation of this project will enable Iran to reduce Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) consumption from 398.8 Ozone-Depleting-Potential tons in 2010 to 342.5 ODP tons in 2015.

Iran has surmounted several challenges in achieving its phase-out targets.  It has done so by ensuring cooperation between the implementing bodies of the MLF – namely Iran’s National Ozone Unit – and international and bilateral agencies such as UNDP, UNEP, UNIDO and the Government of Germany.  UNDP, in particular, is currently implementing a HCFC elimination programme for the refrigerants industry in Iran – which is funded by the MLF. 

At this stage, the immediate challenge is achieving HCFC phase-out in line with Iran’s obligations under the Montreal Protocol.  The report just presented by Dr. Hajizadeh demonstrated well that this is progressing well through a consultative and systematic approach.

So, on behalf of the UN system, let me turn to those who are responsible for leading and managing the National Ozone Unit – in this audience – and congratulate you on your leadership.

You represent a great example of international goodwill, cooperation and collaborative action to cut the global production, consumption, and emissions of the remaining ozone-depleting substances.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Now I turn to the cause for concern I referred to earlier.

If climate change is one of the primary threats facing humanity – which I firmly believe it to be – and if it will become a defining challenge for modern leadership – which I also believe to be the case – then what lessons can we learn from the success of the Montreal Protocol?

Unfortunately, I believe that the lessons – and the optimism – of the Montreal Protocol and the cutting of ozone depleting substances cannot be easily or directly translated to greenhouse gas emission reductions as a whole.

On the surface, the problems may seem similar: gaseous emissions and consequences that will impact us over the course of many decades. 

But the differences are enormous.

Essentially, the “problem structure” of global climate change is fundamentally different from the “problem structure” of ozone depletion. 

First, anthropogenic climate change is a result of things done in almost every area of human activity.  Land use.  Energy use.  Economic productivity.  Every person on this planet is involved.

Ozone depletion, on the other hand, is caused by a relatively limited number of artificial gases produced through a very narrow spectrum of economic activities by a very small number of entities like chemical corporations.

So – despite its successes – the Montreal Protocol may not offer the prototype for an international governance regime which is required to counter accelerating climate change.

My main point is that there is no easy solution. 

We must “decarbonize” the global economy in order to reduce the impact of climate change. 

We must mitigate the impact of climate change through emission reductions, or we will be forced – in the decades to come – to adapt through some form of geo-engineering.

If uncontrollable feedbacks take control of the climate change process, all we will have left at our disposal is adaptation.  And there will be much pain in this.

What do we need to do? 

Perhaps most importantly, we need to take a long-term perspective.  So the views which follow are intended particularly for the policy makers in the audience.

  • We need to shift away from the high carbon-intensive development path – by using renewable energy. 
  • We need to re-afforest our desertified lands and improve sustainable livelihoods for people who live in the parched zones of Iran.
  • We need to consume water much more efficiently.
  • We need to price the resources we are consuming – and this includes water – more fairly.
  • We need to reduce air pollution.
  • We need to collaborate with neighbours to minimize and then eliminate the impact of dust and sandstorms on our health – our agriculture – our infrastructure – our livelihoods and our environment.
  • We need to build more energy-efficient homes – and cities.
  • We need to build climate-change-resilience at the community level.

Some of this is already happening to an extent – and the UN is helping to the degree that our resources allow.  At the macro level, for example, the UN can help with models of GREEN inclusive growth. 

But the speed of change is too slow.  It is simply far too slow.

The real breakthrough – I believe – will only come when discussion on the impact of climate change goes beyond a discourse between the technocrats and policy-makers.

The public as a whole needs to understand what is at stake.  For this, we need much – much – more public discussion and awareness-raising.  For this, we need better education on the environment.

But decision makers should not wait for activism at the grassroots level.  They must build their knowledge of the impact of climate change to drive planning and finance decisions.

What can the UN do?

The United Nations Development Assistance Framework is our overall partnership strategy for cooperating with Iran.  One of its 5 main components is devoted entirely to environmental sustainability.  Within this “environment” pillar, there are 18 planned results.  Six of these are directed to address climate change. 

Five UN agencies are themselves directly engaged in this work.  Our main job is to work with our Government partners, to bring in community partnership, and to link Iran to best practices from other countries.

In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen – yes – the Montreal Protocol has been a phenomenal success.  And – yes – Iran has played a great part in this success.

But immense challenges lie ahead if we are to preserve our livelihoods and living standards in Iran and across the planet. 

And the only way to solve them will be through a combination of:

  • Knowledge
  • Agreements and firm commitments
  • Institutional capacity
  • Regional Cooperation and – perhaps most importantly of all –
  • Leadership

In seeking these solutions, the United Nations will remain at your side to try to help in all these areas.  We have been privileged to be your partner here on the ground in Iran for 40 years and we look forward to the road ahead – also in full partnership.

Please continue to use us.

Kheily motashekaeram.

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