After 30 years of healing the ozone layer, the Montreal Protocol takes on climate change

by CCAC secretariat - 16 September, 2017
The world celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol and #OzoneHeroes

The Montreal Protocol turns 30 today and it is indeed a reason to celebrate. Not just for what it has achieved in its first 30 years for the ozone layer but also for what it can potentially achieve in its next 30 for the climate

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (its full name) is now considered one of the most successful environmental agreements of any kind. It was signed on the 16th of September, 1987 to phase out numerous substances that deplete the ozone layer.

United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, said the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol is a milestone for all people and our planet.

“When scientists found that everyday products were destroying the fragile ozone layer, the world responded with the Montreal Protocol,” Mr. Guterres said. “It rallies governments, companies, doctors, scientists and citizens to reverse the damage, [and] saves millions of people from skin cancer and cataracts each year.”

The Secretary General's Message on the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer
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Noble Laureate Mario Molina, who was a co-recipient of 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for work that showed the impact chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) had on the ozone layer, called the Protocol a unique, planet-saving agreement” that is “getting stronger, and playing a critical role safeguarding the global commons of the planetary system.” Dr Mario Molina was also one of the first members of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Scientific Advisory Panel in 2012.

Writing in the Guardian Newspaper, Dr Molina said the Montreal Protocol has an important future role to play via the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are chemicals that replaced CFCs but were found to be thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere.

“Adoption of the [Kigali] amendment will prevent the emission of the equivalent of 100 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2050,” Dr Molina said.

The phasedown of HFCs is one of the actions promoted by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition since 2012. Through the HFC Initiative and the high-level political support for an HFC Amendment under the Montreal Protocol, the Coalition contributed to the momentum which resulted in the adoption of the Kigali Amendment.

In a letter earlier this year Coalition Co-Chairs Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and Pablo Badenier, former Minister of Environment, Chile, called on the all Coalition State Partners to ratify the amendment. The Kigali Amendment requires at least 20 parties to ratify it by 1 January, 2019 in order to enter into force.

The implementation of the Kigali Amendment can avert as much as 0.5 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of this century. We call on Coalition Partners to once again demonstrate leadership as we turn our attention to the ratification of the Kigali Amendment.
Catherine McKenna & Pablo Badenier

“The implementation of the Kigali Amendment can avert as much as 0.5 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of this century, with additional climate mitigation possible from improving energy efficiency of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment,” the two ministers wrote.

“Coalition Partners have consistently demonstrated vision, leadership, and commitment to action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, and this was especially evident in their efforts to secure an ambitious HFC phase down amendment. We call on Coalition Partners to once again demonstrate leadership as we turn our attention to the ratification of the Kigali Amendment.”

Helena Molin Valdés, Head of the Coalition’s UN Environment hosted Secretariat said “As we celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol, we should build on its past success and help it successfully phase down HFCs just like it has CFCs. This would be something to work on and celebrate over the next 30 years. History has shown us that when we work together, we achieve much more and multiply the benefits for the ozone layer, climate, food security and health.”

Countries that ratify the Kigali Amendment – and there have been six so far – are committing to cutting the production and consumption of HFCs by more than 80 per cent over the next 30 years.

The new deal includes targets and timetables to replace HFCs with more planet-friendly alternatives, and an agreement by rich countries to help finance the transition of developing countries to safer products.

Marvel Comics helps celebrate 30 years of the Montreal Protocol with #OzoneHeroes and

Top officials from the chemical industry, including producers of chemicals and manufacturers of equipment that use HFCs, were also in Kigali, demonstrating support from the private sector.

Developed countries will start reducing HFCs as early as 2019. Developing countries will start later, provided 20 nations have ratified the amendment to allow it to enter into force. However, some African nations have expressed the desire to phase down the chemicals faster than required. They have good reason to do so.

According to UN Environment’s 2015 Africa Adaptation Gap Report, even limiting global warming to under 2°C will cut agricultural yields by 40 per cent, putting 50 per cent of the continent’s population at the risk of undernourishment.

There is still a long way to go, but the success on the ozone layer proves that when the world acts as one, as they are doing again with the Kigali Amendment, results will come.

To keep the energy up, and inspire the next generation of supporters for the coming challenge, the Ozone Secretariat, in partnership with Marvel Comics, is launching an Ozone Heroes campaign – reminding people that our human qualities are what equip us to solve the world’s most pressing problems and that we are all #OzoneHeroes. Marvel comics has also put out a special Guardians of the Galaxy edition titled: Guardians of the Galaxy, Ozone Heroes.

“The Montreal Protocol is as necessary today as it was in the 1980s, not just for the ozone layer but also as part of global efforts to halt climate change,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “Our continued success depends on the emergence of a new generation of heroes.”

Erik Solheim: World Ozone Day 2017
UN Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim's Ozone Day Message
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Find out more about what countries around the world are doing to celebrate Ozone Day here.

Find out moreabout the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s HFC initiative.