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Scientists recently discovered that GHG emissions cause ozone layer depletion. 

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The Montreal Protocol - a model to follow?

by James Parker

James Parker of Simpol UK argues that
taking an approach to the climate crisis similar to that adopted by the Montreal Protocol offers a desirable 'Earth Centred Solution'.

Economic stability and global environmental protection can be coherent.

The Montreal Protocol demonstrated that nations can come together in order to successfully design and implement Earth centric legislation that is effective.

The issue of the hole in the ozone layer took time to enter mainstream consciousness but once it became scientific fact then action was taken.

However, within the context of International Climate Change Regime (ICCR) some of the corporate elite purposely confuse climate science due to the amount of investment in fossil fuels.

The key issue within the Montreal Protocol was that phasing out harmful substances of CFC gases did not require enormous investment or infrastructural changes because it was a relatively small part of the trading process. This is not the case with Greenhouse Gases (GHGs).

CFCs were used to manufacture aerosol sprays, foams and packing materials, as solvents, and as refrigerants. Research and patents by major corporations into cheaper and alternative substances were already well under way during the 1980’s. 

In 1985 the Vienna Convention established mechanisms for international co-operation in research into the ozone layer and the effects of ozone depleting chemicals. The Vienna Convention led to the Montreal Protocol and was negotiated and signed by 24 countries in 1987. 

The Protocol has led to 186 signatories and calls for the Parties to phase ‘down’ the ‘use’ of CFCs and the production and consumption of CFCs by 2000 (2005 for methyl chloroform). 

For each substance, the treaty provides a timetable on which the production of those substances must be phased out and eventually eliminated. For developing countries, it was agreed that they would be  given an extended period of time.

An international fund was established to help developing countries introduce new and more environmentally friendly technologies and chemicals. 

Just like the climate crisis the depletion of the ozone layer is a worldwide problem that does not recognise the borders between countries and so effectiveness was only possible by determined international co-operation.

The Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol provides funds to help developing countries to phase out the use of substances. The fund was the first financial mechanism to be created under an international treaty.

Without the Montreal Protocol, the levels of ozone-depleting substances would have been five times higher than they are today, and surface ultraviolet-B radiation levels would have doubled at midlatitudes in the northern hemisphere.

Since the Montreal Protocol came into effect, the atmospheric concentrations of the most important ozone depleting substances have either levelled off or decreased.

However there is another side to this story. Although ozone depleting substances have clearly been decreasing, evidence shows that thinning of the ozone layer continues. Scientists have recently discovered GHG emissions also cause ozone layer depletion. 

The ICCR must learn from the Montreal Protocol because the innovation that replaced substances was rapid, effective, and economical. The idea that phasing ozone-depleting substances would reduce the quality  and increase the price of goods and services (previously dependent on CFCs) was unfounded.

Corporations and governments in developed countries found that environmental protection did not burden or obstruct productivity, emphasising the fact that economic stability and global environmental protection can be coherent.

It actually provided an impetus for scientific and industrial progress which led to greater international cooperation to protect the global environment. Developing countries also managed to phase out ozone-depleting substances because of the creation of a Interim Multilateral Ozone Fund.

This showed that developed and developing countries can work together and share the problem of ozone depletion. Determination by states, corporations, and citizens of the planet resulted in scientific, technological, and diplomatic creativity. This success raises the  following question: how can we integrate the Montreal Protocol approach into the ICCR?

If the Montreal Protocol model includes the phasing out of GHGs (because they are depleting the ozone layer) and Kyoto also focuses on phasing out GHGs then they would effectively have the same aim. Therefore, developing a new ‘Protocol’ (to phase out GHGs and replace them with new technology) would help solve the climate crisis and therefore reverse the destructive trends of GHG concentration.

James Parker is a London based Political and Legal Analyst who specialises in international relations. He is a Trustee and Political Liaison Coordinator for the Simultaneous Policy UK (Simpol UK).

Image of GHGs courtesy of



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