Driving from the airport to downtown in Washington DC, I saw that the blossoming of trees has painted Washington DC's horizons in shades of white and rose. Those are the spring colors, colors of hopes, the colors that signal the arrival of a new season. But it is not only on the trees that I saw the blooming flowers in DC. I saw, smelled and felt the flowers of hope, colors of optimism and a whiff of aspiration in the air all around the ancient district of U street down to the office district of K street and from Kennedy Center on the banks of the Potomac to the Washington memorial opposite to Capitol Hill.
In a single day I heard so many important speeches and was part of discussions at the round table. A Senator, a Governor, senior officers of the Environmental Protection Agency, White House Staff of Environmental Council, a Mayor of Berkeley city, NGOs, officers from regional EPAs including those from California, Vermont and Maryland, young and experienced administrators…the list was long. They had one message in common, one resounding and resonating tone that echoed all the time. That message and that tone were of optimism. The fall of climate change was over. It was definitely a new beginning that heralded the big bounce and lively leap into spring.
Four years ago I was in the same city to receive USEPA's 2005 Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award. And here I was now to receive USEPA's 2009 Climate Protection Award. What a timing, I thought. Getting the award in ambiance of emerging and dawning era of hope was rewarding indeed. There was overwhelming response for the actions to stop climate change. And actions had started in big way.
This is the country that played a crucial role in carving out the Montreal Protocol and its Multilateral Fund. That treaty went on to become one of the most successful treaties of our times. And this is the country that did not cave in to the Kyoto Protocol that is now the most talked about treaty of our times. This is the country that agreed to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and accepted to lead the phase-out under the Montreal Protocol letting the developing countries to follow. The same country insisted that developing countries like India and China have to take commitments for the GHG emission reductions along with the developed countries.
But I saw the change that came about. Number of states, cities and town and even universities were taking actions and setting up their own GHG reduction targets without waiting for India and China's commitments. I could sense that the spirit of the Montreal Protocol was blossoming in Washington to traverse the road leading to Copenhagen:
To end my brief speech requested by USEPA just before the award ceremony I quoted the poem by Robert Frost -American poet:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and II took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.
On the walls of the Kennedy Center the following lines said by the President John Kennedy were carved:
"I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we too, will be remembered not for our victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit."
I thought it is certain that after the last control measures of the Montreal Protocol are met, the Protocol would be remembered not for its success and full compliance but for the contribution it made and lessons it left behind for humanity on its journey to reduce climate change.