UNEP SASAKAWA Environment Prize Winner

The UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize for 1999 was awarded at United Nations Headquarters in New York to scientist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor, Mario J. Molina, for his outstanding contributions in the field of atmospheric chemistry.

The Prize, worth $200,000 and sponsored by the Nippon Foundation, is considered one of the most prestigious environmental awards in the world.

‘Professor Molina’s pioneering investigations on the chemistry of the ozone layer have led to a better scientific understanding of the effect of human activities on the atmosphere,’ said Lord Stanley Clinton-Davis, Chairman of the Selection Committee. ‘The confidence with which many aspects of the science of ozone destruction is now understood comes directly from his work,’ he added.

Professor Molina and his colleagues demonstrated a previously unknown reaction whereby chlorine is activated on the surface of ice cloud particles in the polar atmosphere. He also demonstrated a new reaction sequence involving chlorine peroxide, which accounts for most of the ozone destruction in the Antarctic.

‘Professor Molina’s leadership greatly contributed to making the UNEP-brokered Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer a reality,’ said UNEP’s Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer. ‘The speed with which countries ratified this precedent-setting international agreement was due in great part to the role he played in communicating to policy-makers, the media and ultimately the general public the implications of his research,’ explained Toepfer.

In 1995 Professor Molina, with Professors F. Sherwood Rowland and Paul Crutzen, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He donated two-thirds of his Prize money to set up fellowships to help scientists from developing countries conduct research in environmental sciences at MIT.

‘This recognition by UNEP represents for me a culmination to my efforts on the protection of the global environment,’ said Professor Molina.

‘I appreciate the support I have received from the world community over the years, and I hope to continue my commitment to work for the benefit of humanity and the environment,’ added Molina.

In addition to being a Professor at MIT, Molina continues his research on stratospheric chemistry and tropospheric pollution, including the pollution problems of rapidly growing cities

Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Celebration and challenge | Informal diplomacy | Being in earnest | International Declaration on Cleaner Production | Clean = competitive | Not on Planet Earth! | The Basel Convention | At a glance | Competition | It’s a waste | Move these poisonous mountains | Broad, global and dynamic | A monumental challenge | UNEP Chemicals | Latin lessons | Sasakawa Environment Prize | Of potholes and ozone holes | Will we learn?