Ozone Treaty's Role in
Combating Climate Change Tops Environment Ministers Meeting in Canada
Two Decades of Success and
Future Years of Achievement Take Centre Stage at 20th Anniversary Celebrations
of Montreal Protocol
Nairobi/Montreal, 14 September
2007 - An accelerated freeze and phase-out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs),
chemicals that were used to replace more ozone-damaging substances known as
CFCs, is to be considered by governments at an international meeting in
New science and technical
assessments indicate that speeding up a freeze and phase-out of HCFCs and their
related by-products could not only assist in the recovery of the ozone layer.
An acceleration could also play
an important role in addressing another key environmental challenge?namely
A record nine countries-developed
and developing- have submitted six different proposals which will be on the
table when up to 191 parties or governments meet in the Canadian city between 17
and 21 September. The negotiations will occur during the 20th Anniversary
celebration of the world's ozone treaty, the Montreal Protocol.
The Protocol was negotiated in
response to growing international concern over the emergence of a hole in the
ozone layer over Antarctica from the use of ozone-depleting chemicals in
products from hair sprays to fire fighting equipment.
HCFCs, promoted over a decade ago
as less damaging replacements for the older CFCs, have now become widespread in
products such as refrigeration systems, air conditioning units and foams.
Under the Montreal Protocol, the
United Nations ozone layer protection treaty which was adopted in 1987, use of
HCFCs is set to cease in developed countries in 2030 and in developing ones in
However, scientists and many
governments are now studying a range of options for a more rapid freeze on
consumption and production of these replacements and the bringing forward of the
final phase-out by around 10 years.
It follows research indicating
that acceleration could, over the coming decades deliver cumulative emission
reductions over the equivalent to perhaps 18 to 25 billion metric tonnes of
carbon dioxide (18 gigatones-25 gigatonnes) depending on the success of
governments in encouraging new ozone and climate-friendly alternatives.
Annually, it could represent a
cut equal to over 3.5 per cent of all the world's current greenhouse emissions.
In contrast the Kyoto Protocol,
the main greenhouse gas emission reduction treaty, was agreed with the aim of
reducing developed country emissions by just over five per cent by 2012.
The final benefits of an
accelerated freeze and phase-out of HCFCs may prove to be even higher than the
18 to 25 billion metric tonnes, according to a just-released report from the
Montreal Protocol's Technology and Economic Assessment Panel that is designed to
inform the negotiations at the international meeting in Canada.
Close to the equivalent of 38
billion tonnes (38 gigatonnes) of carbon dioxide if the acceleration is
accompanied by the recovery and destruction of old equipment and insulating foam
and improvements in energy efficiency, says the Panel.
For example a faster switch to
alternatives to HCFCs may well stimulate technological innovation including a
more rapid introduction of energy efficient equipment that in turn will assist
in reducing greenhouse gas emissions even further.
The ozone layer and human health
too will benefit. Under some of the accelerated phase-out scenarios, ozone
levels could return to healthy pre-1980 levels a few years earlier than current
Benefits would include a
reduction in skin cancer, cataracts, and harm to the human immune system
alongside reduced damage to agricultural and natural ecosystems.
Achim Steiner, UN Undersecretary
General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) which is
responsible for the Montreal Protocol, said: "The Montreal Protocol is
without doubt one of the most successful multilateral treaties ever and I look
forward to celebrating, in mid-September, two decades of achievement in the
Canadian city where it was born".
"The phase out of CFCs has
not only put the ozone layer on the road to recovery. New research, published in
March this year by Dutch and American scientists, also shows that the CFC
phase-out has assisted in combating climate change. But the treaty's success
story is far from over with new and wide ranging chapters still to be written.
Indeed if governments adopt accelerated action on HCFCs, we can look forward to
not only a faster recovery of the ozone layer, but a further important
contribution to the climate change challenge," he said.
Mr Steiner added: "In doing
so the treaty will also underline the often overlooked fact that multilateral
environment agreements like the Montreal Protocol and the Kyoto Protocol have
far wider environmental, social and economic benefits than perhaps are fully
recognized when they are initially agreed. In short, treaties working together
can do far more, more rapidly and at a lower cost".
The Honourable John Baird,
Canada's Environment Minister, said "The original Montreal Protocol stands
as a model of the tremendous results that can be achieved when the international
community works together to tackle environmental problems. As the proud host
country of this meeting, Canada believes that more can be done, and so we
support an accelerated phase out of HCFCs. We will work with the countries who
have signed the protocol to help make this happen, and we will be pushing the
international community to build on the success story that began here 20 years
The meeting comes in advance of a
Heads of State event on climate change being hosted by the UN Secretary General,
Mr Ban Ki-Moon.
This event, scheduled to take
place at UN Headquarters in New York on 24 September, is aimed at building
consensus at the highest level on the need for climate action and a global
emission reduction agreement to come into force when the Kyoto Protocol expires
in five years time.
An accelerated freeze and phase
out of HCFCs might offer governments 'quick wins' in addressing climate change
and build confidence that a new international regime on greenhouse gas emissions
can be agreed before the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, UNEP suggests.