EPA Honors Durwood Zaelke

May 27, 2008

EPA Honors Bren Colleague and Governance Expert for Climate Protection Work

Durwood Zaelke, who is president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD) and worked closely with Bren Professor Oran Young to co-found the Governance for Sustainable Development Program at the Bren School, has been named a “Champion for Protection of Climate” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Zaelke was among 39 individuals, organizations, and companies honored at the 10th annual EPA Climate and Ozone Layer Protection Awards, held Monday, May 19, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Zaelke, who received separate awards for his work in the areas of climate and ozone, and other members of the HCFC Phase-out Acceleration Team were cited for their contributions to a new adjustment to the Montreal Protocol, which took force two weeks ago and will further protect ozone and mitigate climate.

“Thanks to the hard work of this talented team of government officials and non-governmental groups being honored by the US EPA’s climate and ozone awards, Montreal Protocol Parties were able to reach agreement to speed up the phase-out of HCFCs [hydrochlorofluorocarbons],” said James L. Connaughton, Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “This historic agreement not only helps the recovery of the ozone layer, but also represents one of the single largest steps that developed and developing countries have taken together to undertake binding international commitments to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The agreement by all 191 parties to the Montreal Protocol at the September 2007 meeting will reduce climate emissions by 16 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent through 2040, according to EPA. At the same meeting, the parties agreed that climate change mitigation is now an explicit goal of the Montreal Protocol, in addition to fighting ozone layer depletion. The HCFC chemicals targeted in the accelerated phase-out can be up to approximately 2,000 times more potent in contributing to climate change than CO2.

“2007 will be remembered as the year when environmental NGOs joined with developing and developed countries to bring climate concerns to the Montreal Protocol – starting with an accelerated HCFC phase-out,” said Zaelke. “Our message is that protecting stratospheric ozone is not finished and that the Montreal Protocol has many important lessons for other climate treaties.”

Zaelke and the team at IGSD will continue to focus on maximizing the climate-change mitigation potential of the ozone treaty through the destruction of CFCs and HCFCs contained in old air conditioners and other equipment. More than 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalents by 2012 will be released into the atmosphere at the end of the products’ lives if not disposed of properly.

The “adjustment” feature of the Montreal Protocol is a unique process that allows parties to make changes to regulations of chemicals already controlled under the treaty. The adjustment only requires a consensus of the parties and enters into force six months after notification of the adjustment has been sent to the United Nations office in New York. The accelerated HCFC phase-out adjustment was the first time that the parties to the Montreal Protocol explicitly strengthened the treaty to benefit climate, in addition to protecting the ozone layer.

With some scientists saying that the tipping point for devastating sea-level rise and other abrupt climate change events is only ten years away, fast-action climate strategies like the 2007 Montreal Protocol adjustment are critical to buying world leaders more time to negotiate a long-term post-2012 climate treaty. Zaelke and his team at IGSD are continuing to focus on other fast-action climate mitigation strategies, including black carbon, other non-CO2 gases, protection of forests, bio-char sequestration, and renewable energy.

Zaelke is also the founder (1989) of the Center for International Environmental Law, where he served as President until 2003. In addition, he founded and co-directed from 1989 until 2003 the International & Comparative Environmental Law Program at the American University law school. In addition to the Bren School and American University, Zaelke has taught at Yale Law School, Duke Law School, and Johns Hopkins.