13 Nov 2019 Speech Air

Speech to the 31st Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol

Photo by IISD

His Eminence, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, Holy See,

Hon. Mr. Sergio Costa, Minister of Environment, Land and Sea, Italy,

Mr. Qu Dongyi, Director General, FAO,

Ms. Liana Ghahramanyan, President of the MOP30,



Representatives of civil society and the private sector,


Colleagues and friends.

Welcome to the high-level segment of the 31st Meeting of the Parties of the Montreal Protocol.

Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to the government of Italy and the Food and Agriculture Organization, now led by my new friend Mr. Qu Dongyi, for hosting us here in Rome. This city has an incredible history, stretching back thousands of years. You need only climb to the roof of this building and look out at the Roman Forum and the Colosseum to gain a sense of just how old, and beautiful, this city is. By comparison, the history of the Montreal Protocol is brief. But this agreement has, in 32 years of existence, brought a global reach that perhaps equals the Roman Empire at its peak.

Under the Protocol, the world slashed the production and use of gases that were causing the hole in the ozone layer. This planetary shield against harmful UV radiation is now on track to recover by mid-century. By protecting it, the Montreal Protocol has enabled healthier people, healthier ecosystems and healthier biodiversity. The ozone layer is essential for the survival of people and planet, and is it you, in this room, and your colleagues back home who have prevented its degradation.

These outstanding results demonstrate that the Montreal Protocol is one of the world’s strongest examples of international environmental governance. UNEP and I are proud to count it amongst the fifteen multilateral environmental agreements we host. Further thanks are due here to Italy, which next month hosts a meeting of the Barcelona Convention in Napoli.

In these difficult times – when we face the linked threats of climate change, the erosion of nature and pollution of the air, land and sea – multilateral environmental agreements have never been more important. UNEP is committed to ensuring they are all successful, and the Montreal Protocol shows just what these agreements can achieve when the world acts as one under them. I am confident that you will now carry forward this success as you focus increasingly on what the Montreal Protocol can do to tackle these other challenges, while continuing to protect the ozone layer.

The Kigali Amendment

This brings me to the Kigali Amendment. The most explicit expression of this new work lies in this amendment and the contribution it will make to limiting climate change. The amendment can avoid up to 0.4 degrees C of global warming by phasing down HFCs, climate-warming gases used in the cooling industry.

It has also opened new horizons in the cooling narrative. The need for life-saving cooling is growing across the globe – as it must to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals on a warming planet. But this expansion cannot come at the expense of the climate. Therefore, energy efficiency, renewable energy and nature-based cooling solutions must also be explored as we phase out HFCs. To back the work of the amendment in this regard, UNEP has launched the Cool Coalition. Members of this UNEP-led initiative, including multinational corporations, have made real commitments to reducing the climate impact of the cooling industry, while increasing access to life-saving technology.

I cannot emphasize enough how important all of this work is. UNEP’s 2019 Emissions Gap report, which comes out later this month, tells us we are making no progress on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Even if all current unconditional Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, are implemented, we are still on track for a world that is 3.2 degrees C warmer than the pre-industrial era. Recent research suggests that the impacts of such an increase could be even worse than predicted. A report from the Grantham Research Institute, the Earth Institute and the Potsdam Institute warned that we are still grossly underestimating the economic costs of climate change, meaning that world leaders do not fully understand the magnitude of the risks to lives and livelihoods.

As the UN Secretary-General said on World Ozone Day last month, implementation of the Kigali Amendment will be front and centre of action to head off this worrying future. It has seen ratification by 88 countries, but nothing short of universal ratification is acceptable.

The CFC-11 issue

Even as the Montreal Protocol addresses climate change, however, Parties still need to uphold their responsibility to the ozone layer. Last year’s detection of new and illegal emissions of CFC-11 from East Asia, and the subsequent swift action to address them, shows that you are still taking that responsibility seriously and that the Montreal Protocol continues to work. Parties must, however, remain vigilant on this issue until science confirms that the trend of declining CFC-11 emissions is restored. I, and UNEP, will be paying close attention to developments. We stand ready to help ensure vigilance and compliance to the Protocol stays strong. 

Science is central to this vigilance and compliance. It is through science that we help governments design and implement the right policies to address environmental challenges. Here, I would like to recognize the work of the Montreal Protocol’s three assessment panels, which have done such a tremendous job of tracking progress and identifying emerging issues. UNEP is committed to supporting the work of the panels, and promoting deeper cooperation and collaboration between them and other bodies, such as the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Scientific collaboration is crucial to build the case, and options for, strong policy action.

Collaboration on a single global challenge

This collaboration is essential across the board. We need to build cooperation and synergies between the multilateral agreements and the sustainable development goals, between government ministries, between the private and public sectors. We may all have our little fiefdoms, but they are part of the wider environmental landscape. The Montreal Protocol and its Kigali Amendment is, in fact, a perfect example of how action under one agreement affects every process and sector.

As I mentioned earlier, the work of the Montreal Protocol has already had a great positive impact on ecosystems, biodiversity and human health by protecting the ozone layer. Phasing down CFCs also helped to mitigate climate change, as they too were warming gases.

Now the Kigali Amendment and associated efforts can have a wide impact. Governments will work with industry to phase down HFCs. Governments, industry, civil society and international organizations will work in tandem with this process to increase energy efficiency and the share of renewables. Together, we will look at alternative technology: from using seawater to cool buildings through district energy systems to using green roofs and green corridors to keep cities cooler. National cooling plans will bring together disparate ministries and sectors to use the new technology to expand access to those who need it.

All of this will cut the climate impact of the cooling sector, which will have a positive impact on lives, biodiversity, ecosystems and economies. Your actions will reduce the impact of challenges such as air pollution, further improving human health. They will allow the expansion of cooling, bringing life-saving products such as vaccines and safe food to more people and protecting against growing heatwaves. They will help to reduce food loss and waste. They will, in short, have benefits that stretch far beyond the confines of this agreement.

What you do will have knock-on effects going into the “super year” of 2020: when the Convention on Biological Diversity meets to set the post-2020 framework on biodiversity; when nations update their NDCs under the Paris Agreement; when many other important gatherings are taking place, including the UN Ocean Conference in June. What you do will affect everything.

As you deliberate, this is what I would like you to remember. The environmental challenge is a single, global challenge. If we are to face it down, we must do it together.

Thank you.


Inger Andersen

Executive Director, UN Environment Programme

(Prepared for delivery)