Credit: Richard Kwizera - Kigali Today

International regulation of Ozone and Climate under the Montreal Protocol

The Montreal Protocol was created in 1987 to regulate the chemicals responsible for ozone depletion. Widely hailed as the world’s most successful international environmental treaty, it has phased out 99% of all Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS), setting the ozone layer on the path to recovery. It was also the first UN treaty to achieve universal ratification – truly, a global agreement and an outstanding model of international cooperation. Spurred by the frightening discovery in the mid-1980s of a springtime ‘hole’ in the ozone layer, the Protocol has not only protected the ozone layer but has evolved to face the current climate emergency.

The problem

All life on Earth is dependent on the ozone layer, a thin stratum of gas in the upper atmosphere which shields the planet’s surface from about 99 per cent of harmful solar ultraviolet radiation. In 1974, Mario Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland published groundbreaking scientific research showing that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) could destroy ozone in the Earth’s stratosphere. Concern over CFCs grew and the 1985 discovery of the ozone hole over the Antarctic by British researchers Joseph Farman, Brian Gardiner and Jonathan Shanklin sharply focused world attention on CFCs and stratospheric ozone depletion. Two years later, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was concluded at Montreal on 16 September, 1987 and came into force on 1 January 1989.

EIA’s initial involvement with the Protocol was to expose the scale of illegal trade in CFCs, which represented 20 per cent of global CFC trade by the late 1990s, and to push for improved enforcement and licensing requirements.

While continuing to monitor and expose ODS illegal trade, we have increasingly focused on the climate impact of ODS and their replacement chemicals. In 2007, the Parties to the Montreal Protocol accelerated the phase-out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), ODS that were developed as more benign CFC substitutes. A key motivation for the 2007 agreement was the climate benefits such an accelerated HCFC phase-out would bring. At the same time, Parties began to discuss the possibility of adding hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to the list of controlled substances, even though HFCs were not ODS.

An amendment proposal in 2009 submitted by the Federated States of Micronesia and Mauritius kickstarted years of negotiations, which culminated in the adoption of the Kigali Amendment in 2016. The Kigali Amendment will phase down HFC consumption and production based on the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) by 80-85 per cent by 2045. According to the most recent (2022) assessment by the Montreal Protocol’s Scientific Assessment Panel, this will avoid as much as 4.3 billion tonnes of CO2e (GtCO2e) HFC emissions per year by 2050 and reduce global average warming by almost half a degree by the end of the century.

(Two) Our contribution to the Montreal Protocol’s achievements has been recognised with two UN OZONE AWARDS, INCLUDING AT THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE TREATY

(45) Between 2008-16, we produced over 45 legal, technical and scientific reports and briefings demonstrating why and how THE MONTREAL PROTOCOL SHOULD CONTROL HFCS

(420 BILLION) The CO2-equivalent cumulative emissions of HFCs that are avoided by 2100 due to the Kigali Amendment, which is more than 10 years of current annual CO2 emissions

  • Two

    Our contribution regarding the Montreal Protocol have been recognised when we won two

    UN Ozone Awards, including at the 30th anniversary of the treaty
  • 45

    From 2008 onwards, we produced over 45 reports and briefings to prove

    the business case for a global shift away from HFCs
  • 70 billion

    In 2016, Parties to the Montreal Protocol agreed the historic Kigali Amendment avoiding an estimated

    70 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions

Moving forward

The Kigali Amendment came into force in 2019 and we are working to ensure global ratification and implementation.

This involves building a sound framework for implementation, including through the Multilateral Fund (MLF) financial mechanism, that will enable a swift transition to energy-efficient, climate-friendly technologies, primarily in the cooling sector.

At the same time, the shocking discovery of large-scale unexpected emissions of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) in 2018 has highlighted the need to strengthen the Protocol’s policies and institutions to ensure that its monitoring, reporting, verification (MRV) and enforcement regime is fit-for-purpose.

EIA is urging political and financial investment in the ozone treaty, which can secure substantial additional greenhouse gas emission reductions in the near future. This includes addressing significant continued ODS emissions from fluorochemical production, emissions from banks of unwanted ODS and HFC-containing equipment and products, nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions, and combatting the illegal trade in ODS and HFCs.