postheadericon Why The Montreal Protocol Has Worked To Save The Ozone Layer

The Montreal Protocol is a UN Agreement which was signed by 196 states and the EU.  It has been characterized as the most successful international agreement by the organization to date.  The true question is, has it actually done what it set out to and worked to save the ozone layer?


What Is The Montreal Protocol?

The Montreal Protocol is an agreement which was created to ban the global production and use of ozone-damaging chemicals. These chemicals include halon, CFCs and HCFCs. All of these chemicals were found to have depleting effects on the ozone layer in varying severity levels.


The Protocol required all of the signatories to start the phase-out of CFCs or Chlorofluorocarbons. At the time of the Protocol, it was signed in 1987, CFCs were commonly used in aerosol products, foams, fire-fighting equipment, and refrigerants. The wide use of these chemicals led to the exposure of the ozone layer to the compounds in the chemical.


The primary compound of concern was chlorine which causes a chemical reaction when it comes into contact with ozone. This chemical reaction will turn the ozone particles into oxygen particles. This conversion depleted the ozone layer and reduced the protection the Earth has against UV radiation from the sun which has caused a greenhouse effect.


The Negotiation Of The Montreal Protocol

When the Montreal Protocol was being negotiated, most of the talks were held in small and informal groups. This led to a genuine exchange of views and provided the chance to take some issues on trust. This includes the later development of the Multilateral Fund. The fact that the people who were negotiating included scientists who had studied the compounds also lent credibility to the Protocol.


It is important to note that at the time of negotiation, the science was not definite. This led to a fairly flexible agreement which had the option to increase or decrease the controls in place as the science on the topic became clearer. The initial framework of the agreement took this into account and it was only later that the true extent of the damage done by these compounds to the ozone was truly understood.


The flexibility of the agreement framework ensured that it could later be amended to include stricter controls. These later controls included adding more ozone-depleting substances to the control list and a total phase-out which was not part of the original negotiation. The original negotiation only called for a partial phase-out. It is potentially the fact that the negotiations started out modestly that led to the overall success of this process. It was not only the phase-out of these compounds that was part of the negotiation. Trade provisions were also put into place to ensure that signatories were only allowed to trade with other signatories in terms of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances.


Some of the principles which came about during this negotiation are now routinely used in the creation of international agreements. However, it was not only the negotiation of the Montreal Protocol that has made it successful. It is also the implementation of the agreement which has ensured that it has worked to save the ozone layer.


The Implementation Of The Montreal Protocol

The stable framework which was created in the negotiation of the agreement was key to the implementation. The framework allowed industries to plan long-term research as well as innovation to help with the phase-out of the CFC and other substances on the control list. Of course, there were other benefits for industry to move away from CFCs such as the fact that they were old technology and out of patent.


The implementation of the agreement has been helped with the independent Technology and Economic Assessment Panel along with its predecessors.These panels have helped all of the signatories of the agreement reach a solid timely decision on very complex matters related to the terms of the agreement. These panels provided the confidence some countries required to start their transition from CFCs to other better compounds.


The Multilateral Fund is another reason why the implementation of the agreement was a success. This fund will provide incremental funding for developing countries to ensure that they meet their targets. It has also provided institutional support to help countries build their phase-out activities and implement them.


Has The Montreal Protocol Been Successful?

The Montreal Protocol has actually been one of the most successful agreements in terms of saving the ozone layer. CFCs are still in use, but the phase-out of R-22 process is almost complete and there has been a lot of innovation to create environmentally friendly replacements. All of the signatory countries have remained a part of the agreement and implemented what was required by the agreement.


Additionally, the holes that were in the ozone layer at the time the agreement was signed have started to close. While it is estimated that it will still take another 30 years before the ozone layer is at the same level as it was in 1980, there has been improvement. This is a clear sign that the agreement has been successful in what it wanted to do. The fact that the agreement could be changed has also led to the inclusion of additional harmful compounds. The reduced use of CFCs led to an increase in HCFCs which cause greenhouse gas emissions and it contributing to climate change. However, the Montreal Protocol has been able to amend this due to the initial framework.


The phase-out of HCFCs is now part of the Montreal Protocol which has made it one of the best pure climate change agreements. The success of the early iterations of the agreement can provide hope for the newer version. The legally binding reduction obligations of the agreement are considered to be ideal for the reduction in the use of these compounds and in fighting climate change. The Montreal Protocol was described by the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as the most successful international agreement to date.  Looking at the scientific results, this is true as the holes in the ozone layer have started to close.


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