Press releases

Wednesday 03 Nov 1999

United Nations premier environmental prize awarded to Nobel laureate, Mario J. Molina

Nairobi/New York, 3 November 1999 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today that the 1999 UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize has been awarded to scientist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Professor Mario J. Molina for his outstanding global contributions in the field of atmospheric chemistry.

The prize, worth US$200,000 and considered one of the most prestigious environmental awards in the world, will be presented at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 17 November 1999.

"The prize has been awarded to Professor Molina for his pioneering investigations on the chemistry of the ozone layer, which 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 Professor Molina's work," he added.

Professor Molina and his colleagues discovered a previously unknown reaction whereby chlorine is activated on the surface of ice cloud particles in the polar atmosphere. Professor Molina 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. 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," said UNEP's Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer.

For his work, Professor Molina was awarded in 1995 the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Professors F. Sherwood Rowland and Paul Crutzen. 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. Today, Professor Molina continues his research on stratospheric chemistry and tropospheric pollution including pollution problems of rapidly growing cities.

"This recognition by UNEP represents for me a culmination of 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," he said.

At the award ceremony in New York, H.E. Andres Pastrana Arango, the current President of Columbia, will launch the Pastrana Borrero Lecture which has been established by UNEP to honour the late chairman of the Sasakawa Environment Prize Selection Committee and former President of Columbia, H.E. Misael Pastrana Borrero.

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Note to Editors

* A complete biography and photograph of Prof. Molina are available.

* The UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize, sponsored by the Nippon Foundation and founded by Mr. Ryoichi Sasakawa, has been awarded annually since 1984 to individuals who have made outstanding global contributions to the management and protection of the environment.

* Past winners include Chico Mendes, the rubber tapper from Brazil who died leading the fight against cattle ranchers' destruction of the rainforest; Lester Brown, Director of the World Watch Institute, whose writings were instrumental in alerting the world about the threats to the biosphere; Dr. M. S. Swaminathan of India, father of the economic ecology movement, and Ian Kiernan of Australia, founder of the Clean Up the World Campaign.

* Selection process: The 1999 Prize winner was selected by an independent and distinguished panel of international leaders and environmentalists on 28 June 1999. The panel included: Lord Stanley Clinton-Davis of the United Kingdom; H.R.H. Princess Chulabhorn of Thailand; Professor Wangari Maathai, founder and director of the Greenbelt Movement of Kenya; Dr. Russell Peterson, President Emeritus of the National Audubon Society of the United States of America; and Dr. Abdulbar Al-Gain, former Secretary-General of Saudi Arabia's Ministerial Committee on Environment and former President of the Meteorology and Environmental Protection Administration.

For more information and to obtain 2000 nomination forms, please contact:

Tore J. Brevik,
Spokesman/Director UNEP Communications and Public Information
on tel: 254-2-623292, fax: 254-2-623927,
email: tore.brevik@unep.org
or
Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox,
Secretary, UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize,
P. O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya,
tel: 254-2-623401, fax: 254-2-62 3692,
e-mail: elisabeth.guilbaud- Cox@unep.org

In New York, contact UNEP's Information Officer,
Jim Sniffen,
on tel: 1-212-963-8094,
email: sniffenj@un.org

UNEP News Release 1999/121

Wednesday 03 Nov 1999
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