Speech by Achim Steiner at the Opening of the 19th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer

20th Anniversary of the Protocol and International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer (16 September 2007)

17 September 2007, Montreal—His Excellency Baird, Environment Minister of Canada; other distinguished ministers; government representatives, Nobel laureates and other leading scientists, members of the UN; ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends,

I am not the first nor will I be the last to use the word historic in terms of this meeting falling as it does on the 20th anniversary of the birth of the Montreal Protocol here in this fine Canadian city where we gather.

But historic—often an over used word—is, in the case of this treaty and the men and women who made it possible, not an exaggeration, tautology or mere 'feel good' rhetoric.

• 95 per cent reduction of ozone depleting substances-gone, phased out.

• Millions of people now and in the future spared the misery and distress of cancer and eye cataracts.

• Untold numbers' of human and wildlife immune systems protected; reduced damage to agriculture, ecosystems and infrastructure.

And there is another remarkable feature of this Protocol.

To stand here and present a sanitized history would be disingenuous and would under-estimate the achievements of the parties, industry, civil society and the United Nations.

For, as all of you know in this room more than perhaps I, there have been many tough and sometimes fraught and certainly lively times.

From the initial agreements in 1987 on the level of cuts in CFCs, to the full and final phase out of methyl bromide (a pesticide used to fumigate soils) by developed countries, the Montreal Protocol has not been without controversy or many a sleepless night at the negotiation table.

But ladies and gentlemen,

the fact remains that when push has come to shove; when the chips have been down and when the integrity of this treaty has been on the line, common sense and common, rather than narrow national interests have prevailed, and the environmental imperative has been met.

Most birthday parties involve the giving of presents—and yesterday we gave awards to some of the luminaries whose vision, determination and tact brokered the historic Montreal deal of 20 years ago, and important amendments over the course of the past two decades.

But on Friday, when this 19th Meeting of the Parties ends, there is every chance that the Montreal Protocol will deliver one or more further gifts back to us.

First, you have before you options that may contribute to further ozone layer protection perhaps bringing forward the repair of the ozone layer to its pre-1980 levels by a few more years.

And second, your proposals can also contribute in an important way to one of the biggest—and sometimes seen as the most intractable challenges and preoccupations- of our time: namely climate change.

If, as the scientific evidence suggests, an agreement can be made to accelerate the freeze and phase out of HCFCs –the replacement chemicals to the old and more ozone unfriendly CFCs—then this meeting may at a stroke provide significant climate benefits and contribute to the success of the Kyoto Protocol.

Indeed, according to research published earlier in the year by Dutch and US scientists, the phase out of CFCs in itself has already contributed significantly to the climate change challenge.

As it relates to this meeting, it seems to me that you are already over half way to a solution - my understanding is that there is wide support from both developed and developing countries.

So, the challenge here will be the costs and the financing of such an acceleration.

But ladies and gentlemen, the funding of this treaty has been a part of its success story via the $2 billion Multilateral Fund.

Again, let history be our guide. Faced with a challenge and with real, scientifically proven and demonstrable benefits, governments have stepped up to address their responsibilities in terms of investing in saving the ozone layer.

With an agreement here on both the acceleration re HCFCs and the financing governments will also be shouldering responsibility towards the earth's climate too.

And what will it mean if this acceleration is agreed? I believe a lot—both environmentally, economically and politically. One key area of support will be the continuing complimentary support of the Montreal Protocol for the goals of the Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has achieved much since being agreed ten years ago—incidentally Kyoto is also celebrating its birthday, its tenth.

These achievements include not least the creation of entirely new, novel and innovative carbon markets which are up and running.

And a mechanism for offsetting developed country emissions—the CDM—which is set to funnel around $100 billion worth of funding from the North to the South.

It is essential that a successor to Kyoto, under the UN Framework Convention, is urgently and decisively agreed to put greenhouse gas emissions on track to the up to 80 per cent reductions scientists say we need.

Montreal has and can continue to support these objectives. But it cannot replace the need for a global agreement on C02 and other greenhouse gases and the necessity for all countries to act on both mitigation and adaptation with common but differentiated responsibilities.

Thus the eyes of the world are on Bali, Indonesia, where the climate convention holds it next meeting.

While many roads lead to Bali, there are stops on the way. Montreal this week is one and next week we have another.

Days after your meeting ends, the secretary general of the UN—Mr Ban Ki-Moon—will be hosting a climate change meeting to which he has invited Heads of State.

A good outcome here will send a strong signal that governments fully support and are willing to deliver action multilaterally to solve the pressing challenges of this generation and in doing so secure the viability of the next.

That the even bigger and wider challenge of climate change can be resolved—and that we can also secure some 'quick wins' on many fronts—from a global phase out of old, energy guzzling light bulbs, up to an accelerated freeze and phase out for HCFCs.

Not as a replacement to a post 2012 climate accord, but as a supporter of its aims, objectives and targets.

Ladies and gentlemen, I know you have a lot of work to do this week.

Other ozone depleting chemicals will be discussed too—halons in aviation being one of them.

I pleased to learn that not far from this meeting, our colleagues at the International Civil Aviation Organisation, will also be looking this week as to how they can assist.

Meanwhile, there have been some concerns in recent years that the uncontrolled uses of methyl bromide—in this case for fumigating wooden pallets in international shipments, may be an emerging problem.

Again I am pleased to note that the Montreal Protocol and the International Plant Protection Convention are working together on a solution.

This is the international community and the UN delivering rather than frustrating as 'One".

So I am delighted to be sharing this podium with senior representatives of UNDP; UNIDO and the World Bank.

Together we have helped to assist developing countries to reduce 70 per cent of ozone depleting substances—in many cases at a faster pace than the Montreal protocol requires.

Ladies and gentlemen, the overwhelming message from this meeting is that nations presented with the science and intelligently devising the political, technical and financial frameworks can, working through and with the UN, achieve far more than 'going it alone'.

The other message is that multilateral environmental agreements often delivery far more—and at far less cost when compared with the bill for the impacts—than may be supposed when they were originally conceived.

Here we have a golden opportunity which may never come around again to evolve the Montreal Protocol to a new level—continuing to tackle the ozone layer challenge but also rising to assist with the challenge of climate change.

In closing I would like to reflect on history, and what the future may say about current events. In my editorial for this 20th anniversary edition of Our Planet—UNEP's flag ship magazine—I listed a few of the historic events of 1987.

The Mir space station was launched; the world's population reached five billion; Oscar Arias Sanchez won the Nobel Peace Prize and Paul Simon's 'Graceland was named record of the year.

But perhaps the key event occurred in Montreal on the 16 of September.

What might we say in the 40th anniversary edition?.

Child mortality hit record lows; the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put a full stop behind the science and outlined the economic opportunities of combating climate change.

While these things have already happened, it is my hope that we will be able to write, 20 years from now, that 2007 was a further turning point

That the governments of the world agreed to an accelerated freeze and phase out of HCFCs; and that the Heads of State fully backed the need for a post 2012 climate treaty under the UN and negotiators in Bali agreed it—or at the very least got down to agreeing it.

Fanciful?—not if 20 years of the Montreal Protocol are our guide.


 

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