As the world community struggles to come to grips with global warming and climate change, the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan may be about to show the way ahead.
Bhutan is set to become the first nation in the world where the citizens will have a constitutional obligation to preserve the environment, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
As representatives from 24 nations of Asia gather in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu on Tuesday to mark the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol on Ozone, the Bhutan government will clearly create a landmark in the international drive to protect the environment.
The government of Bhutan has made environmental protection a centrepiece in its development agenda. Article 5 of the constitution emphasises the need for every citizen of the country to protect the environment, conserve its rich biodiversity and prevent ecological degradation including noise, visual and physical pollution through the adoption of environment friendly practices and ethos.
The article also allows the parliament to enact environmental legislation and implement environmental standards and instruments based on the precautionary principle, polluter pay principle, maintenance of intergenerational equity.
Bhutan has thus become the first state to ensure sustainable use of natural resources and reaffirm the sovereign rights of the state over its own biological resources and also that natural resources are used in a way that benefits present and future generations.
The key drivers promoting intergenerational equity are the protocol's precautionary approach i.e., take preventative action to avoid damage to the ozone layer, and elimination of use of ozone depleting chemicals in a cost-effective manner.
By phasing out the production and consumption of ozone depleting chemicals, the governments, industries and individuals involved are contributing to the reduction of the number of skin cancer, cataracts, and diseases caused by impaired immunodeficiency responses caused by excess UV radiation.
"As the ozone layer takes several decades to recover, this means that the actions we are taking now will protect the health of generations to come," says Rajendra Shende, head of the OzonAction Unit of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).
The UNEP has planned year-long activities to mark the 20th anniversary of this crucial treaty, which has become one of the landmarks of the global fight to protect environment and is a rare example of a global treaty that is working, unlike say the Kyoto Protocol.
"Our combined efforts to comply with the Montreal Protocol are bringing the ozone layer back to the healthy state in which we found it when it was handed over to us by our parents. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to transmit the best possible environmental legacy to them. These actions are leading to the recovery of the ozone layer and allowing to help us hand it over to our next generation," Shende told IANS just before leaving for Thimphu.
Shende underlines the fact that the Montreal Treaty has not only met its targets for protection and restoration of the ozone layer, but that the Montreal pact is also leading to contribution in the battle against global warming.
"From 1990 to 2010, actions taken by governments to fulfill their obligations under the Montreal Protocol have led to a reduction of nearly 8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide in the environment; In comparison, the Kyoto Protocol measures have led to a fall in CO2 by only 2 gigatonnes," says UNEP's executive director Achim Steiner.