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Remarks by Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, to the 21st Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol

Port Ghalib, Egypt, November 2009 - Environment Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Maged George, Hon. Ministers, Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to be here at the 21st Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer.

Port Ghalib, here on the Red Sea, was founded on the legend of a wealthy spice merchant and his determined and ultimately successful efforts to win the hand of a girl named Badour.

The Montreal Protocol is legendary too in terms of its achievements and success stories upon which this meeting can build.

I am delighted to know that Mustapha Tolba, one of my illustrious predecessors and in many ways the father of the Montreal Protocol, is here today.

Equally that Omar El Arini, in many ways the father of the Multilateral Fund, is with us too.

Egypt can be rightly proud of what is has contributed, and continues to contribute, to the protection of the ozone layer.

Distinguished delegates,

In somewhere just over a month, this treaty reaches a landmark with the total global phase-out of Chloroflurocarbons (CFCs).

These are the chemicals identified as among the key original culprits behind the loss of ozone and the formation of the iconic hole over Antarctica.

The fact that this phase-out is being witnessed by 196 parties to the treaty is testament to the success, the structures and the flexibility of this instrument.

Congratulations to all Parties and also to Timor Leste, whose recent ratification gave the Montreal Protocol the unique status of universal support.

While CFCs are finally banished to the annals of the scientific and human health history books, some small exemptions may be needed over the next few years.

Indeed before you in port Ghalib is a request by some developing countries for exemptions in respect to pharmaceutical-grade CFCs for use in metered dose inhalers.

I am sure the parties will show the tact and common-sense that have guided the Montreal protocol since its inception.

Similar common-sense needs to prevail over the uncontrolled use of the pesticide methyl bromide in the areas of quarantine and pre-shipment.

The workshop held earlier in the week has provided food for thought on the best way forward.

Methyl bromide is an ozone depleting chemical being used in agricultural applications and controlled under the Montreal Protocol for most uses.

It would clearly be counter-productive if its production and consumption increased for, for example spraying wooden pallets when shipped around the world.

The fact that the Montreal Protocol is working closely with the International Plant Protection Convention underlines the maturity that the ozone convention has reached.

That maturity, that sense of cooperation, is no more underscored than in the area of climate change.

The figures that have been emerging over the past few years in terms of the Montreal Protocol's contribution to combating climate change have been impressive.

Over the past 12 months staff at the ozone treaty have been working ever more closely with staff at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol.

This week offers the opportunity to evolve this to deal cooperatively with other synthetic gases-in particular the replacement chemicals for refrigeration up to foams.

Scientists estimate that if Hydroflucorcarbons (HFCs) become the chemicals of choice to replace HCFCs over the coming decades, their contribution to global warming could rise sharply.

This should and must not happen.

The two proposals for sharing the responsibility between the two multilateral treaties represent one, solution-orientated path.

Above all this meeting needs to send a strong and clear political signal to the world that the United Nations, by harnessing the power of their various instruments, can address the global environmental challenges facing this generation.

Continued support for developing countries will also be paramount.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There are just some four weeks or so to go before the crucial UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen.

The Montreal Protocol illuminates the fact that there are far many more avenues governments can take in tackling climate change.

While C02 must be the over arching concern, an estimated 50 per cent of current global warming may be due to gases such as the nitrogen compounds, methane, low level ozone and black carbon.

Many of these need to be cut for reasons other than climate change anyway-black carbon and low level ozone both damage crops and contribute to human health problems.

Moreover and unlike C02, several of these non-C02 pollutants are short-lived-in other words cutting them can deliver almost immediate and multiple benefits.

Some are 'managing down' expectations in Copenhagen. Here in port Ghalib let's manage them up.

Let's send three clear and unequivocal messages

  • that multilateralism on environmental challenges is the only possible solution on a planet of six billion, rising to nine billion by 2050.

  • that cooperation and long term planning across countries and across continents is alive and well- protecting the ozone layer, addressing development and now contributing to the climate change challenge.

  • That every nation-no matter how large or how small, no matter how rich or how poor-can and is acting to shoulder its responsibility to deliver a more sustainable world.

In conclusion, this is an important meeting and I look forward to a positive outcome at the close that evolves the Montreal Protocol to new levels of ambition.




Further Resources

Further Climate Action Under Ozone Layer Treaty Must Wait

Upgrading Ozone Layer Treaty to Assist in Combating Climate Change

UNEP: Ozone Secretariat


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