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Vital Ozone Graphics

6 Mobilisation 1: Successful Environmental Diplomacy

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer ranks as one of the great success stories of international environmental diplomacy, and a story that is still unfolding. The protocol, along with its processor the Vienna Convention, is the international response to the problem of ozone depletion agreed in September 1987 following intergovernmental negotiations stretching back to 1981. Following the confirmation of the ozone destruction theory with the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole in late 1985, Governments finally recognised the need for stronger measures to reduce consumption and production of various CFCs and halons. The Montreal Protocol came into force on 1 January 1989.

It is widely believed that without the protocol, ozone depletion would have risen to around 50 per cent in the northern hemisphere and 70 per cent in the southern mid-latitudes by 2050. This would have resulted in twice as much UVB reaching the Earth in the northern mid-latitudes and four times as much in the south. The implications of this would have been horrendous: 19 million more cases of non melanoma cancer, 1.5 million cases of melanoma cancer, and 130 million more cases of eye cataracts.

Instead, atmospheric and stratospheric levels of key ozone depleting substances are going down, and it is believed that with full implementation of all of the provisions of the Protocol, the ozone layer should return to pre-1986 levels by 2065.

Story ideas
#6a. Would be good to frame the Protocol’s success story as a refreshingly positive “climate” story. Key issues: the threat faced, the countries came together and positive changes (whatever they were) began to occur. A feeling for the political dynamics behind its success would be important.

#6b. Geographicalfocus: to look at how different countries responded. What did your country do in response to the Protocol and what happened as a result in the country, against the backdrop of the global progress that has occurred.

The Protocol can be summarized in seven key features:
  1. It requires each of the 191 countries and the European Union that ratified the protocol (called “Parties”) and its amendments to almost completely eliminate production and consumption of nearly 100 chemicals that have ozone depleting properties, in accordance with agreed timelines;
  2. The protocol requires each of the Parties to report annually on their production, imports and exports of each of the chemicals they have undertaken to phase out;
  3. An Implementation Committee made up of ten Parties from different geographical regions reviews data reports submitted by Parties, assesses their compliance status, and makes recommendations to a meeting of the Parties regarding countries in non-compliance;
  4. The protocol includes trade provisions that prevent Parties from trading in ODS and some products containing ODS with non-Parties, and also provisions for trade between Parties;
  5. The protocol includes an adjustment provision that enables Parties to respond to developing science and accelerate the phase-out of agreed ODS without going through the lengthy formal process of national ratification. It has been adjusted five times to accelerate the phase-out schedule, which is in itself a remarkable achievement;
  6. Developing countries are allowed a “grace period” of 10 to 16 years beyond the dates established for industrialized countries to comply with the control provisions of the protocol;
  7. In 1990 the Parties established the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol to help developing countries meet their compliance obligations under the treaty (see following chapter).


The climate–ozone connnection

It is important to realise that there are collateral benefits to the implementation of the Montreal Protocol. The ODS phase out has already provided, and is continuing to provide, significant climate protection benefits. The Montreal Protocol is in a very real sense a “climate protection” treaty too. In addition to destroying the ozone layer, most ODS are potent greenhouse gases. The GWP of CFCs, halons and HCFCs are thousands of times more than the most commonly-know greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. These chemicals directly contribute to climate change if they are emitted to the atmosphere. They also contribute indirectly to climate change through the use of electricity to power appliances that use ODS. This climate benefit of the Montreal Protocol is an “untold story” for most of the media and it is an interesting topic from many angles. Only recently have scientific papers appeared. A recent study by Velders et al. (see references) has confirmed the tremendous contribution of the Montreal Protocol to mitigating climate change. By phasing out CFCs, HCFCs and other chemicals under the Montreal Protocol, more than 5 giga tons equivalent of CO2 have already been eliminated – representing more than 25% of the world’s greenhouse gases emissions compared to 1990. This surpasses the Kyoto Protocol’s target of reducing GHGs by 5 times.

All countries can claim “climate credits” by their phase out of ODS under the Montreal Protocol, and some are beginning to document this contribution. For example, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, phasing out ODS has already reduced greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the following three scenarios lumped together: generating enough electricity to power every US home for more than 13 years; saving forests covering an area more than twice the size of Florida from deforestation; and saving more than 4,500 million million (trillion) litres of petrol – enough to make 4.8 thousand million round trips from New York to Los Angeles by car.