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The Montreal Protocol – Success Story

Published: 28th Sep, 2019

Year 2019 celebrates over three decades of remarkable international cooperation to protect the ozone layer and the climate under the Montreal Protocol.



Year 2019 celebrates over three decades of remarkable international cooperation to protect the ozone layer and the climate under the Montreal Protocol.


What is Montreal Protocol?

  • The Montreal Protocol is an international environmental agreement with universal ratification which was adopted in 1987 to protect the earth’s ozone layer by eliminating use of ozone depleting substances (ODS).

Why has the Montreal Protocol been so successful compared to other efforts at international cooperation? 

  • Comprehensive negotiations: From the start, negotiation relied heavily on leadership and innovative approaches. Much negotiation was held in small, informal groups. This enabled a genuine exchange of views and the opportunity to take some issues on trust, such as the subsequent development of the Multilateral Fund. The people negotiating the treaty also included scientists, which lent credibility.
  • Universal consensus: The Montreal Protocol is the only universal UN Agreement, signed by 196 states and the EU. It has more signatories than any other international agreement or body, including the United Nations itself.
  • The idea of using trade policy as a punishment mechanism: Due to this readily definable cause and effect relationship, the Montreal Protocol was able to establish strong enforcement provisions as well as strong commitments.
  • Adjustment provision: The science was not definite at the time of adoption of the Montreal protocol, so the negotiators developed a highly flexible instrument which could increase or decrease controls as the science became clearer. This flexibility meant the protocol could be amended to include stricter controls: more ozone-depleting substances added to the control list and total phase-out, rather than partial phase-out, called for.
  • Developing countries are given more time to comply with the phase out decisions, and also they receive funding from the Multilateral Fund to facilitate compliance with the Protocol’s provisions.

Positive outcomes of Montreal protocol:

  • The Montreal Protocol has led to the phase-out of 99 per cent of ozone-depleting chemicals in refrigerators, air-conditioners and many other products.
  • The latest Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion completed in 2018, shows that, as a result, parts of the ozone layer have recovered at a rate of 1-3% per decade since 2000.
  • At projected rates, Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone will heal completely by the 2030s. The Southern Hemisphere will follow in the 2050s and Polar Regions by 2060.
  • Ozone layer protection efforts have also contributed to the fight against climate change by averting an estimated 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, from 1990 to 2010.

Why there was need of Kigali amendment?

  • Given their zero impact on the depletion of the ozone layer, HFCs are currently used as replacements of hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), however they are powerful greenhouse gases.
  • As Montreal protocol is successful in controlling production of Ozone depleting substances, including HFCs in Montreal protocol will help to control global warming and climate change.
  • Therefore the Kigali Amendment aimed for the phase-down of hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) by cutting their production and consumption. The goal is to achieve over 80% reduction in HFC consumption by 2047. The impact of the amendment will avoid up to 0.5 °C increase in global temperature by the end of the century.

What are the steps taken by India in the direction of Montreal Protocol? 

  • India completely phased out production and consumption of Chlorofluorocarbons, carbon tetrachloride and halons, man-made chemicals responsible for the depletion of the Ozone Layer. This remarkable milestone was achieved two years ahead of schedule.
  • India has contributed significantly to this global environmental cause, by reducing 25,000 ozone depleting particles tonnes and a further potential of 23,000 ozone depleting particles.
  • Carbon tetrachloride, a harmful chemical is used by some of the largest steel manufacturing units in the country, to clean steel. Today, many steel companies, including the country’s largest public sector undertaking in the steel sector, use tetrachloroethene which is less harmful for the environment.
  • Manufacturers of metered dose inhalers have completely transitioned to ozone-friendly and affordable alternatives, demonstrating the potential for environment-friendly public health management in the country.
  • As a next step India is planning to phase out Hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) by 2030, as part of the country’s commitment to the Montreal Protocol.
  • India became one of the first countries in the world to launch a comprehensive Cooling Action plan which has a long term vision to address the cooling requirement across sectors such as residential and commercial buildings, cold-chain, refrigeration, transport and industries. The India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) lists out actions which can help reduce the cooling demand, which will also help in reducing both direct and indirect emissions.

    Global cooling coalition: The ‘Cool Coalition’ links actions across the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the SDGs, and aims to accelerate progress in advance of the UN Secretary-General’s 2019 Climate Action Summit.

What are the major challenges that India needs to address?

  • Integrating energy efficiency with refrigerant transitions: With a rapidly growing domestic demand for air conditioning, using HFC phase down as an opportunity to redesign room air conditioners (ACs) to be more efficient is a major challenge.
  • The challenge of developing/selecting climate friendly alternatives mainly in refrigeration, air-conditioning, and foam products.
  • Controlling Illegal trade of CFCs.
  • Inclusion of Ozone depletion issues and its relation to refrigeration practices in the curricula of all technical training institutes in the country.
  • Mechanism for higher involvement of State level organizations on ODS phase-out.

Way forward:

With the robust international coalitions and effective implementation of the framework, Montreal protocol achieved a milestone in reducing ozone depletion. To protect environment and to achieve more sustainable development there is need to follow the pattern of Montreal protocol in solving other environmental problems.

Learning Aid

Practice Question:

Explain how Montreal protocol is successful in reducing ozone depletion?

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