Just 9 days before the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol in the city of Montreal, there was yet another landmark event that took place to celebrate one more 20th anniversary of the Protocol which changed the way the world works.
That Protocol, i.e. Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 7th September 1987 on digital cellular mobile phone systems in Europe that later sparked a technology revolution that even today continues unabated.
Though a cell phone was first made by Dr Martin Cooper of Motorola in 1974 it took 13 years to set up and agree on cooperation mechanism under a regional agreement that was signed in 1987 by 13 countries and later came to be known as Global System of Mobile Communication- GSM.
Though the ozone depletion was first hypothized by Molina-Rowland in 1974, at the University of California, it took 13 years to set up and agree on a cooperation mechanism under the global agreement that was signed in 1987 by 24 countries and later came to be known as the Montreal Protocol-MP-on substances that deplete the Ozone Layer.
The agreement on GSM in 1987 is now widely regarded as the foundation of today's global mobile phone industry and is one of the greatest technological achievements of our days, says Rob Conway, CEO of GSM Association. The CEOs of the industrial world and the heads of the governments have nothing different to say about the Montreal Protocol, the most successful multilateral environmental agreement in the world so far.
There are 2.5 billion users of mobile telephones today, 7 trillion minutes of talking time and 2.5 trillion SMS messages are sent every year over GSM networks.
There are 6 billion people whose governments are Party to the Montreal Protocol and are engaged in implementation of the Montreal Protocol. It has already eliminated nearly 1.6 trillion grams of CFCs, which is equivalent of nearly 10 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. In both cases, GSM and MP, the early vision of the industry and the governments created an international cooperation on an unprecedented scale. It resulted into technological evolutions benefiting the lives of people over the last twenty years. Mobile phones have been able to reduce the digital divide. The Montreal Protocol has succeeded in bridging the environmental divide and the developmental aspirations between developed and developing countries.
I recall the international negotiations to strengthen the Montreal Protocol. In the Gigiri complex of UNEP in Nairobi, in 1989, the Scientific Assessment Panel of WMO and UNEP was presenting their assessment. I was part of the Government of India attempting to understand the impact of the participation of the developing countries in meeting the Protocol's target. Dr Bob Watson, Chair of the Scientific Assessment Panel, was presenting the famous bell-size curves on chlorine loading in the stratosphere. I, through the Indian Government negotiator, asked Dr Watson how the bell-size curve would look like and to what extent the ozone layer recovery would be delayed if developing countries participated in the Montreal Protocol some years after the developed countries started implementing it. For example: what would be the impact on chlorine loading and the recovery of ozone layer if the time lag was 10 years, 15 years, 20 years and -interesting option- if developing countries were totally exempted from the Montreal Protocol. In the evening of that same day, Dr Watson spoke to his team in NOAA and NASA in USA who did the computer modelling and the following morning he presented to the negotiators in Nairobi how the bell-curve would change and how the ozone layer recovery would get affected. In fact, he presented to us through a visual impact if the developing countries decided on late participation or non-participation.
During the negotiations on the agreement on mobile phones-GSM-, no one asked such questions on the differentiation of the developed and developing country participation. Probably the technological potential of mobile phones was overwhelming and the idea swept the minds of the negotiators.
No power in the world, not even the powerful nuclear missile, can stop an idea whose time has come!