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The Montreal Protocol: how today’s successes offer a pathway to the future

Abstract

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal Protocol) is widely considered to be the most successful multilateral environmental agreement (MEA) because: 1) it is working to protect the ozone layer, 2) it is the only treaty that enjoys universal membership, and 3) both developing and developed countries are committed to phasing out controlled ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) and are almost continuously in full compliance with the phase-out schedule. In addition, the abundance of ozone-depleting chlorine and bromine from manufactured chemicals is declining and is expected to continue to decline in the stratosphere to pre-Antarctic ozone hole levels by the middle of this century. The Montreal Protocol is a double success because the phase out of ODSs also protects the climate. Most ODSs are powerful greenhouse gases (GHGs), while many alternatives to ODSs are not or have lower global warming potential than the ODSs they replace. Furthermore, although the Kyoto Protocol already controls emissions of certain alternatives to ODSs that are powerful GHGs, amendments to the Montreal Protocol are proposed to control both their production and consumption. This paper explains how the Montreal Protocol has achieved its success and raises questions of practical and academic interest as to how the Montreal Protocol can guard against backsliding, loopholes, illegal trade, and other actions that are threatening, making the world safe for future generations. It also explores how the Kyoto and Montreal Protocols can be made stronger and more cost-effective by taking advantage of the synergy of separate and joint actions.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    United Nations, 2006. Report to the General Assembly’s Millennium Summit, New York.

  2. 2.

    For example, the UN Framework Convention On Climate Change, Montreal Protocol on Ozone Protection, Convention On Biological Diversity, Convention On Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, Convention On International Trade In Endangered Species, Basel Convention On Control Of Hazardous Wastes, Convention To Combat Desertification, and International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. Data from Ronald B. Mitchell, 2002–2014. International Environmental Agreements Database Project (Version 2013.2). Accessed 13 May 2014 at: http://ie.uoregon.edu/

  3. 3.

    See, for example, Ivanova, Maria and Tarasofsky, Richard (September 2007). International Environmental Governance. Report of the Chatham House Workshop, 26-27 July 2007. © Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, London.

  4. 4.

    See, for example, Andersen and Sarma (2002) or Brack (2003)

  5. 5.

    http://www.unep.org/documents.multilingual/default.asp?documentid=78&articleid=1163. Accessed 10 March 2013.

  6. 6.

    United Nations General Assembly (28 October 1982). “World Charter for Nature,” United Nations. Retrieved 25 August 2013. The concept of precautionary principle has its academic roots in Siegfried von Ciriacy-Wantrup’s concept of “Safe Minimum Standard,” which is the threshold above which loss is catastrophic and irreversible within normal human time scales (Ciriacy-Wantrup 1952).

  7. 7.

    Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, June 1992. Principle 7. Retrieved from United Nations Environment Programme 6 June 2014: http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?documentid=78&articleid=1163

  8. 8.

    Encyclopedia of the Earth. “Common but differentiated responsibility.” Accessed 7 June 2014 at http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/151320/.

  9. 9.

    It is important to appreciate that, unlike Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, Montreal Scientific, Environmental Effects, and Technology and Economic Assessment Reports are published unedited and uncensored by policymakers (Andersen and Sarma 2002 and Andersen et al. 2007).

  10. 10.

    The Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol. Description of the MLF. Accessed 7 June 2014 at: http://www.multilateralfund.org/default.aspx

  11. 11.

    Clean Development Mechanism financial figures from CDM Executive Board Annual Report 2013, Accessed 6 June 2014 at: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/publications/pub_cdm_eb_annualreport_2013.pdf

  12. 12.

    “GEF Impact Evaluation of the Phaseout of Ozone Depleting Substances in Countries with Economies in Transition.” The GEF Evaluation Office, Evaluation Report number 56, published September 2010. page viii. Accessed 8 June 2014 at: http://www.thegef.org/gef/sites/thegef.org/files/documents/ODS-complete-LOW.pdf

  13. 13.

    This group of insiders who have been members of the Montreal Protocol institutions includes Stephen O. Andersen, Penelope Canan, John S. Daniel, David W. Fahey, Marco Gonzalez, Mack McFarland, Melanie K. Miller, Mario J. Molina, Stephen A. Montzka, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, A. R. Ravishankara, Stefan Reimann, Rajendra Shende, and Guus J.M. Velders.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful for the advice and edits of Stephen O. Andersen and Durwood Zaelke.

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Correspondence to Nancy J. Sherman.

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Gonzalez, M., Taddonio, K.N. & Sherman, N.J. The Montreal Protocol: how today’s successes offer a pathway to the future. J Environ Stud Sci 5, 122–129 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-014-0208-6

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Keywords

  • Montreal Protocol
  • Climate change
  • Hydrofluorocarbons
  • HFCs
  • Precautionary principle
  • Ozone hole