The Montreal Protocol
The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is the landmark multilateral environmental agreement that regulates the production and consumption of nearly 100 man-made chemicals referred to as ozone depleting substances (ODS). When released to the atmosphere, those chemicals damage the stratospheric ozone layer, Earth’s protective shield that protects humans and the environment from harmful levels of ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Adopted on 15 September 1987, the Protocol is to date the only UN treaty ever that has been ratified every country on Earth - all 197 UN Member States.
The Montreal Protocol phases down the consumption and production of the different ODS in a step-wise manner, with different timetables for developed and developing countries (referred to as “Article 5 countries”). Under this treaty, all parties have specific responsibilities related to the phase out of the different groups of ODS, control of ODS trade, annual reporting of data, national licensing systems to control ODS imports and exports, and other matters. Developing and developed countries have equal but differentiated responsibilities, but most importantly, both groups of countries have binding, time-targeted and measurable commitments.
The Protocol includes provisions related to Control Measures (Article 2), Calculation of control levels (Article 3), Control of trade with non-Parties (Article 4), Special situation of developing countries (Article 5), Reporting of data (Article 7), Non-compliance (Article 8), Technical assistance (Article 10), as well as other topics. The substances controlled by the treaty are listed in Annexes A (CFCs, halons), B (other fully halogenated CFCs, carbon tetrachloride, methyl chloroform), C (HCFCs), E (methyl bromide) and F (HFCs).
The treaty evolves over time in light of new scientific, technical and economic developments, and it continues to be amended and adjusted. The Meeting of the Parties is the governance body for the treaty, with technical support provided by an Open-ended Working Group, both of which meet on an annual basis. The Parties are assisted by the Ozone Secretariat, which is based at UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.
The Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol was established in 1991 under Article 10 of the treaty. The Fund's objective is to provide financial and technical assistance to developing country parties to the Montreal Protocol whose annual per capita consumption and production of ODS is less than 0.3 kg to comply with the control measures of the Protocol.
The Multilateral Fund’s activities are implemented by four international agencies - UN Environment (UNEP) , UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the World Bank - as well as bilateral agencies of non-Article 5 countries.
Responsibility for overseeing the operation of the Fund rests with the Executive Committee, which comprises seven members each from Article 5 countries and non-Article 5 countries. The Committee is assisted by the Multilateral Fund Secretariat, which is based in Montreal. Since inception, the Multilateral Fund has supported over 8,600 projects including industrial conversion, technical assistance, training and capacity building worth over US$3.9 billion.
Throughout the implementation of the Montreal Protocol, developing countries have demonstrated that, with the right kind of assistance, they are willing, ready and able to be full partners in global efforts to protect the environment. In fact, many developing countries have exceeded the reduction targets for phasing out ODS, with the support of the Multilateral Fund.
Phase out of HCFCs – the Montreal Amendment
Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are gases used worldwide in refrigeration, air-conditioning and foam applications, but they are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol since deplete the ozone layer. HCFCs are both ODS and powerful greenhouse gases: the most commonly used HCFC is nearly 2,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its global warming potential (GWP). Recognizing the potential benefits to the Earth’s climate, in September 2007 the Parties decided to accelerate their schedule to phase out HCFCs. Developed countries have been reducing their consumption of HCFCs and will completely phase them out by 2020. Developing countries agreed to start their phase out process in 2013 and are now following a stepwise reduction until the complete phase-out of HCFCs by 2030.
In Article 5 countries, this HCFC phase out is in full swing, with support from the Multilateral Fund for the implementation of multi-stage HCFC Phase out Management Plans (HPMPs), investment projects and capacity building activities. Throughout this process, the Parties are encouraging all countries to promote the selection of alternatives to HCFCs that minimize environmental impacts, in particular impacts on climate, as well as meeting other health, safety and economic considerations. For the climate consideration, this means taking global-warming potential, energy use and other relevant factors into account. For refrigeration and air conditioning, this means optimizing refrigerants, equipment, servicing practices, recovery, recycling and disposal at end of life.
Phase down of HFCs – the Kigali Amendment
Another group of substances, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), were introduced as non-ozone depleting alternatives to support the timely phase out of CFCs and HCFCs. HFCs are now widespread in air conditioners, refrigerators, aerosols, foams and other products. While these chemicals do not deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, some of them have high GWPs ranging from 12 to 14,000. Overall HFC emissions are growing at a rate of 8% per year and annual emissions are projected to rise to 7-19% of global CO2 emissions by 2050. Uncontrolled growth in HFC emissions therefore challenges efforts to keep global temperature rise at or below 2°C this century. Urgent action on HFCs is needed to protect the climate system.
The Parties to the Montreal Protocol reached agreement at their 28th Meeting of the Parties on 15 October 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda to phase-down HFCs. Countries agreed to add HFCs to the list of controlled substances, and approved a timeline for their gradual reduction by 80-85 per cent by the late 2040s. The first reductions by developed countries are expected in 2019. Developing countries will follow with a freeze of HFCs consumption levels in 2024 and in 2028 for some nations.
The issue has been under negotiation by the Parties since 2009 and the successful agreement on the Kigali Amendment (Decision XXVIII/1 and accompanying Decision XXVIII/2) continues the historic legacy of the Montreal Protocol. The Kigali Amendment will enter into force on 1 January 2019 for those countries that have ratified the amendment.
The pathway to implement the HFC phase down is to reduce dependency on high-GWP alternatives and increase the adoption of low-GWP, energy-efficient technologies as part of the HCFC phase-out process under the Montreal Protocol. Such a “smart approach” can achieve the Montreal Protocol’s objective of eliminating HCFCs while at the same time achieving energy efficiency gains and CO2 emissions reduction — a “climate co-benefit.”
Success achieved to date and the job ahead
With the full and sustained implementation of the Montreal Protocol, the ozone layer is projected to recover by the middle of this century. Without this treaty, ozone depletion would have increased tenfold by 2050 compared to current levels, and resulted in millions of additional cases of melanoma, other cancers and eye cataracts. It has been estimated, for example, that the Montreal Protocol is saving an estimated two million people each year by 2030 from skin cancer.
To date, the Parties to the Protocol have phased out 98% of ODS globally compared to 1990 levels. Because most of these substances are potent greenhouse gases, the Montreal Protocol is also contributing significantly to the protection of the global climate system. From 1990 to 2010, the treaty’s control measures are estimated to have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 135 gigatons of CO2, the equivalent of 11 gigatons a year.
Under the Kigali Amendment, actions to limit the use of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol is expected to prevent the emissions of up to 105 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases, helping to avoid up to 0.5 degree Celsius of global temperature rise by 2100 – a truly unparalleled contribution to climate mitigation efforts, and the single largest contribution the world has made towards keeping the global temperature rise "well below" 2 degrees Celsius, a target agreed at the Paris climate conference.
The Montreal Protocol also makes important contributions to the realization of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Given all of these factors and more, the Montreal Protocol is considered to be one of the most successful environmental agreements of all time. What the parties to the Protocol have managed to accomplish since 1987 is unprecedented, and it continues to provide an inspiring example of what international cooperation at its best can achieve.