Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol

November 20, 2017

(MONTREAL) – Thirty years ago, with Canadian leadership, the nations of the world came together to ban production of the chemicals CFCs and HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. This action prevented ozone layer depletion and led to a decrease in UV radiation, thereby lowering the incidence of skin cancers and saving thousands of lives.

“It was simply the world’s most effective treaty. The ozone layer is repairing itself, and the ozone hole has shrunk. At the same time, the campaign to remove ozone-depleting chemicals from the atmosphere had the side effect of reducing global warming. While not all ozone depleters are greenhouse gases, some are. The recently-accepted Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol will assist in further reductions of warming gases, with a projected impact of avoiding a half a degree of warming,” says Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf-Islands), who was part of the team in Montreal to negotiate the protocol in September 1987.

“Some say that the Montreal Protocol succeeded simply because the numbers of chemicals involved were easier to phase out, but that is an incomplete answer. In addition, unlike the Kyoto Protocol or Paris Accord, the Montreal Protocol has powerful enforcement mechanisms. Any nation that is party to the convention and violates its terms can be hit with trade sanctions from other parties. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol or Paris Accord, following its negotiation, the key negotiating team stayed engaged to implement the agreement they negotiated. Meanwhile, those who negotiated Kyoto are long gone from Environment Canada, and even the team from two years ago in Paris is already dispersed. Within two years of signing the Montreal Protocol, the nations of the world realized that the danger from ozone depletion was worse than we had known in 1987, and the targets were toughened for a more rapid phase-out. Two years after Paris, the world’s nations have the same inadequate targets we had in 2015,” continued Ms. May.

“If we want to learn from our successes, it is worth looking at the key elements that contributed to the success of the Montreal Protocol. The threat of climate change is in a small class of human-caused threats to our survival on this planet. It is time to learn from the lessons of the Montreal Protocol and immediately increase our climate commitments,” concluded Ms. May.