Introduction

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer has been successful in meeting its goals in phasing out Ozone Depleting Substances (ODSs).  As a result, the abundance of ODSs in the atmosphere is declining and the ozone layer is expected to recover around the middle of this century.  The negative aspect of the success is that it has become increasingly difficult to get the attention of, or funding from, policy makers to deal with the remaining challenges of the ozone layer protection.  This document attempts to put into perspective the successes and the remaining challenges.

Universal Ratification

Achievements: The Vienna Convention on Protection of the Ozone Layer and its Montreal Protocol achieved universal ratification in 2009 and they are the first and only treaties to realize that aspiration. Out of the four Amendments, the London, Copenhagen and Montreal Amendments have also achieved universal ratification. Global environmental protection can only be truly effective with global participation and action.  Global commitment to ozone layer protection has been demonstrated through the Montreal Protocol.

Challenges: The Beijing Amendment is awaiting ratification by one Party.  Universal ratification of all the Amendments is the next aspiration.  The global commitment and partnership need to permeate in the efforts to address other global environmental protection issues and sustainable development.

Basic Principles and Institutional Framework

Achievements: The Montreal Protocol embodies key guiding principles which are now recognized to be the cornerstones of sustainable development including: (i) the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities; (ii) precautionary principle; and (iii) the principle of basing policies and action on sound science. Built on those principles, many special features of the Montreal Protocol and the resulting institutional frameworks ensured global participation and partnership among all the stakeholders:

  • The financial mechanism and its Multilateral Fund supporting the Article 5 Parties’ implementation, with the Executive Committee, Fund Secretariat, Implementing Agencies, bilateral agencies, Compliance Assistance Programme with capacity building, institutional strengthening and awareness building activities and regional networks of national Ozone Officers;
  • Periodic assessment carried out by three Assessment Panels (Scientific, Environmental Effects and Technology and Economics) and six Technical Options Committees (in the major ODS use sectors) providing assessments of latest information based on which Parties review the provisions (especially the control measures) of the Montreal Protocol.  Based on the assessments, the Montreal Protocol has been strengthened through 6 sets of adjustments and 4 Amendments requiring 96 chemicals to be phased out 100%.
  • The recognition of special situation of Article 5 (mainly developing) Parties effectuated the 10 year grace period for them in meeting the control measures and provision of support through the financial mechanism.
  • Non-compliance regime with the Implementation Committee that looks into cases of non-compliance with a view to finding amicable solutions, taking into consideration the effectiveness of the financial mechanism.

Challenges: MP is widely recognized as a most successful MEA and its potential to be a model for tackling other global environmental protection and sustainable development issues has also been widely recognized.  The OS and UNEP have utilized the various opportunities and events to disseminate the information on the successes and the experiences of the MP, including through the International Ozone Day celebrations around the world and the UN SG’s message for the day that receive world-wide attention; the report on MDG; various side-events, workshops and invited talks at international conferences and meetings.  The effort needs to be continued.  One of the important mechanisms for disseminating the successes and lessons learned widely to international audiences including MEAs and other organizations is through the Sustainable Development Goals.  Through the SDG mechanism, it may be possible to monitor the actual incorporation of the lessons learned into various international actions.

Phase-out of Ozone Depleting Substances

Achievements: By 2010 virtually all Parties had reported compliance with their phase out obligations in respect of CFCs, halons, carbon tetrachloride, methyl chloroform and chlorobromomethane. As a consequence, the Protocol has now led to the phase-out of 98% (about. 1.8 million ODP tonnes or 2.5 metric tonnes) of the historic levels of production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances.  The remaining 2% is mainly HCFCs to be phased out (about 37,000 ODP tonnes or 640,000 metric tonnes).  The HCFCs that need to be phased out seem small in terms of ODP weighted amount but it is still an enormous challenge in terms of actual quantities in metric tonnes and also because the phaseout schedule was accelerated in 2007.

Challenges: The momentum for the total global phase-out of ODSs needs to be sustained to ensure protection of the ozone layer. The last leg of the total phase-out can be expected to pose the greatest difficulties.  The remaining ODS to be phased out under the Montreal Protocol include HCFCs, and small amounts of essential and critical uses, process agent applications and laboratory and analytical uses.  The Montreal Protocol exempts the quarantine and pre-shipment use of methyl bromide from controls but there are initiatives to address this use, for example, through reporting requirements and cooperation with International Plant Protection Convention.  Although ODS in banks (e.g. equipment, insulation foams, chemical stockpiles) are not controlled under the Montreal Protocol, the parties are concerned with the issue of environmentally sound management of ODS banks because the emissions of those ODSs will cause ozone layer depletion and contribute considerably to climate change. It has been estimated that about 5.4 million tonnes of ODSs remain in banks globally and annual emissions from banks have been estimated to be about 2.3 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent per year.

High Rates of Compliance

Achievements: Taking into account all parties to the Protocol and all their phase-out commitments, the parties have achieved a compliance rate of over 98%. Furthermore, many countries, both developed and developing, have met their phase-out targets well ahead of schedule.  In addition to the financial mechanism that supports developing countries to meet the Montreal Protocol obligations, the unique non-compliance procedure has worked well to encourage and assist Parties in non-compliance to return to compliance.  The procedure focuses on amicable solutions and assistance rather than to punish.  The non-compliance situations for Article 5 Parties are also determined in light of the effectiveness of the support under the financial mechanism.

Challenges: High rate of compliance needs to be maintained. One of the challenges addressed by the Parties is illegal trade which threatens to undermine the compliance effort of the Parties.  Efforts to tackle illegal trade must be redoubled as temptations to make money from such trade increase as supplies of ODSs diminish.

Financial mechanism to support developing countries

Achievements: The Montreal Protocol’s financial mechanism that includes a Multilateral Fund is the first of its kind to be established.  The key characteristics of the Multilateral Fund are that: (i) it pays for the incremental costs incurred by developing countries to comply with the Montreal Protocol obligations; (ii) it is managed by an Executive Committee made up of 7 developed and 7 developing countries (i.e. equal rights and say by the two groups); (iii) the projects and activities under the Fund are supported by Implementing Agencies which include UNDP, UNEP, UNIDO and the World Bank as well as bilateral agencies; and (iv) it has an independent Secretariat co-located with UNEP.  Through the Fund, over 6000 projects and activities were carried out in all the developing countries, and those projects enabled Technology Transfer where old technologies were totally replaced.  Capacity building and institutional strengthening were ensured including through the establishment of over 145 National Ozone Units, establishment of regulations and Legislation in over 100 Parties and an operation of a system of Regional Networks of Ozone Officers which has been valuable for capacity building and information sharing.  To date, the Multilateral Fund has been replenished eight times, and the total contributions have reached over US$ 3.11 billion.

Challenges: To date, most eligible developing countries have relied heavily upon funding from the Multilateral Fund to support their phase-out efforts, and continued assistance from the Fund will be important to ensure that a high level of compliance in these countries is maintained. The essential completion of the phase-out in both developed and developing countries will require a commitment to both a continued high level of attention to the issue and continued funding.  In view of the changing world economic order (financial crises, rise of China and India as economic powers), the discussions on the replenishment of the Multilateral Fund this year is expected to be long and hard. The balance between who can afford to contribute funds and who are those in greatest need of assistance need to be considered carefully alongside the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, a fundamental principle of the Montreal Protocol.

Health and Environmental Benefits

Achievements: The Montreal Protocol has prevented adverse impacts of increased harmful UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface including damages to human health, ecosystems – both terrestrial and aquatic, biogeochemical cycles, air quality and materials. It can be estimated that millions of cases of fatal skin cancer and tens of millions of cases of non-fatal skin cancer and cataracts have been avoided due to the Montreal Protocol. United States has estimated that more than 6.3 million skin cancer deaths will have been avoided by 2165 in the United States alone.  This translates to 4.2 trillion US dollars in health care costs being saved over the period 1990–2165.  Furthermore, estimates show that over 22 million additional cataract cases will be avoided for Americans born between 1985–2100.

Climate Benefits

Achievements: The Montreal Protocol has also delivered substantial climate benefits. Because most ozone depleting chemicals are also greenhouse gases, the Protocol has already averted greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to more than 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. These significant reductions make the Montreal Protocol one of the prime contributors to the fight against climate change.

Challenges: Because HCFCs and some related production byproducts are global warming gasses, their continued production and consumption contribute to climate change as well as to ozone depletion. Furthermore, some alternatives to HCFCs, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), don’t harm the ozone layer but are potent global warming gasses. It has been estimated that the CO2-equivalent emissions of HFCs are increasing at about 8% per year. For 5 years running, the parties to the Montreal Protocol have considered proposals to amend the Protocol to include HFCs under its control, but to date the issue has been contentious.  The essential transition away from ODSs in the refrigeration and air conditioning sectors to take into account, enhancements in energy efficiency as well as low GWP alternatives, as well as managing the banks of ODS in a sound manner present opportunities to achieve substantial global warming benefits. Although not required by the Montreal Protocol, the parties have committed themselves to taking matters such as energy efficiency into account as they proceed with their HCFC phase-out.

Healing the Ozone Layer

Achievements: Results from continuing global systematic observations have confirmed that atmospheric levels of key ozone depleting substances are declining and it is estimated that with continued, full implementation of the Protocol’s provisions the global ozone layer should return to pre-1980 levels by around the middle of this century and the Antarctic Ozone around 15 years later.

Challenges: The world community needs to continue to monitor the changes in the ozone layer and concentrations of ozone depleting chemicals in the atmosphere.  The ozone layer recovery is happening now in an atmosphere that is different from what it used to be because of increasing greenhouse gases and associated climate change.  There are complex interlinkages between ozone and climate and those interlinkages as well as many other uncertainties about the atmospheric processes still need to be better understood through continued research. Another emerging issue is that of nitrous oxide: the latest scientific assessment has shown that the current ODP weighted anthropogenic emission of N2O is larger than any other ODS.  N2O is both ozone depleting and global warming, and it is a gas included in the basket of greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol.