Success, tangible and unintended results-Montreal Protocol

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Success, tangible and unintended results-Montreal Protocol

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Achim Steiner 1

“By 2030, the Protocol may be preventing 2 million cases of skin cancer each year. It will have prevented significant loss of food crops which in turn would have compounded future severe food security challenges” Achim Steiner, USG and ED of UNEP.


Distinguished delegates, Dear colleagues,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you today to the joint meeting of the Conference of the parties to the Vienna Convention and the parties to the Montreal Protocol.

As we gather here, other events are forming around us. We are now on the eve of 2015, a year which will mark 30 years since the adoption of one of the most successful environmental conventions, the Vienna Convention and also a year of important negotiations – economy, sustainable development , climate change.

Overview / Setting the scene

Your work on ozone-depleting substances is one of the greatest success stories of international environmental management in global partnership with universal ratification.

Great success not only of science informing policy, of nations acting together on the basis of science via the Montreal Protocol, but also a shining example of using the United Nations as a platform upon which technology development, technology transfer and financing have been implemented successfully to reach the objective of protecting the global commons. I intentionally left out capacity building just to give emphasis on one of the most precious tools that you have in your hands, the fact that every developing country has its own ozone officer with the respective infrastructure that accompanies him/her. Your decisions have empowered you with the resources and the knowledge to act.

The Montreal Protocol has been and will continue to be a journey of success, a journey of challenge and a journey of hope. Success because of the Protocol’s achievements; Challenge because of the recognized imperative to maintain the world’s commitment to phasing out ozone-depleting substances; and Hope because by combining international efforts where we come to see the common interest, we can achieve further breakthroughs in protecting the environment and human wellbeing.

The success and tangible results 

In this journey of almost 30 years now, we have succeeded not only through the commitment of all parties but also through the daily choices of all individuals around the world, to phase out more than 98% of ozone-depleting substances.

So, what does this achievement mean?

When people ask “why do these achievements matter for me” or “why does the ozone hole matter for me?” you can very proudly respond that by 2030, the Protocol may be preventing 2 million cases of skin cancer each year. It will have prevented significant loss of food crops which in turn would have compounded future severe food security challenges. Your Environmental Effects Assessment Panel provides you with this information. According to the US EPA, with the 1997 amendment of the Montreal Protocol, 22 million additional new cataract cases avoided for Americans born between the years 1985 and 2100.

As a result of your coordinated efforts, our planet has responded. According to the latest assessment from the Scientific Assessment Panel of the Montreal Protocol that I had the honour to launch in the second week of September, the world avoided a global problem by getting rid of ozone-depleting substances via the Montreal Protocol.

Without the Protocol, we would probably have seen large ozone layer depletions around the globe and Antarctic ozone hole would be larger and deeper today. And with it, we are starting now to see encouraging signs that the ozone layer is on track to recovery by the middle of this century. The Earth is healing itself because we are taking away the ozone depleting substances.

This recovery sends to the global community three powerful messages directly to policy:

  • First, we needed strong global partnership and united action to achieve results,
  • Second, we needed to be patient and persistent to see the positive results of our actions. It can take a significant amount of time for vital support systems on the planet to recover. Simply turning off the source of emission doesn’t immediately solve the problem.
  • Third, a decision taken at one point in time will bring results much later in the future and this need to be factored into any international discussions and negotiations.

The success and the unintended side effect
Ozone layer protection has contributed a lot to climate change mitigation. Although the parties have been mindful of not causing adverse impacts on the environment, the climate change effects of HFCs in the future may off-set the good work done by the Montreal Protocol in climate change mitigation if not addressed.

Science provides us with a much clearer understanding today that we are dealing here with an issue that couples the ozone layer with climate change. Between these two, there are connections in science, in man-made emissions that cause them and in the policy options for dealing with them.

Key issues on the agenda of the meeting
I would like to turn to some key issues on the agenda of the meeting and first of all the replenishment of the Multilateral Fund.

The replenishment of the Multilateral Fund for the 2015 to 2017 triennium will enable the continuation of the HCFC phase out activities.

As developing countries grow, they will produce more refrigeration and air conditioning systems not only to improve their standards of living but for export around the globe. The more countries become developed, more energy will be needed, and more chemicals will be used.

Many developing countries are rightly addressing energy efficiency as a primary concern.  Addressing energy efficiency in the HCFC phase out process, especially in the refrigeration and air conditioning sectors, can play an important role for ensuring technology choices that benefit the ozone layer, reduce the climate impact and reduce energy consumption.

This is the equation of multiple benefits and triple dividends that the countries have to achieve. Only in this way will it be possible to capture the HCFC phase out as an opportunity for making the right technology choice and investments.

Negotiation of the replenishment of the Multilateral Fund comes at a critical stage when developing countries are in the midst of planning and implementing the HCFC phase-out activities and many developed countries are facing financial difficulties.  It is a challenge to ensure continuity of the world’s first financial mechanism of its kind that has been at the foundation of the Montreal Protocol’s global partnership. A successful outcome of sufficient replenishment that will enable climate friendly choices will have implications that uphold an impact for several years to come, and send a profound signal for the Montreal Protocol moving forward on all of the challenges ahead.

But money is not the only concern for developing countries.

There are issues such as technical questions on the availability of low GWP alternatives for phasing out HCFCs, the costs involved and the real technology transfer that need to be addressed.

So, the question we face is how we can best make the transition to HCFC phase-out through a very successful instrument like the Montreal Protocol, and by best using the Multilateral Fund which precisely is here to help countries access technology which previously had been out of their reach.

Our challenge is to ensure access to technology and development of technology appropriate for all regions including those with hot climates by addressing at the same time intellectual property concerns. The ingenuity of the Montreal Protocol is its flexibility, to use regulatory framework to allow science to become the foundation for a market-compatible deployment strategy. Industries around the world are also hearing the messages of the Montreal Protocol and are responding as they have done in the past.


Distinguished delegates,

In order for the global partnership between the developed and the developing countries to work, we must continue to build on the foundation of the “principle of common but differentiated responsibilities” and “fairness”.

The discussion on high GWP or low GWP alternatives for HCFC phase out is a discussion that takes place at a period when the low GWP alternatives are gaining a market niche globally due to national or regional policy measures.

We need to recognize all of these factors in the discussions that are taking place.

Otherwise, resulting banks, “waste banks”, the sources of future emissions will be huge.

We all need to see the wider picture.

We have ahead of us a difficult year of negotiations.

Negotiations that will have an impact on climate, on our planet, on our lives.

Negotiations under the UNFCCC that will have an impact on the energy choices we make.

Negotiations under the Montreal Protocol that will have an impact on the chemicals we use.

The issue is not always to compare the two options but to go forward with steps that will have a positive impact and that can help discussions in other international fora as well to move forward.

Successful implementation to achieve sustainable development as an ultimate goal has to rely on relevant tools, sound governance structures and enhanced capacity to respond. This is exactly the success story that the DNA of the Montreal Protocol has delivered in continuing to inspire and catalyze us to further action in facing the challenges ahead. Addressing many of them may not be easy, but with the spirit of cooperation, openness, fairness and respect for all views, I am confident we can achieve our ambitions.

The commitment that helped to breathe life back into the ozone layer is still with us – we only need to tap into it.

Thank you

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