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The Rio Conferences and the Montreal Protocol

The first Rio Conference

Some of the key outcomes of the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992) included the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and Agenda 21. The latter was a comprehensive blueprint of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by UN organizations, governments, and major groups in every area in which humans directly affect the environment. 

The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (1985) and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987) preceded the first Rio Conference by seven and five years, respectively. Although the ozone treaties are not considered to be “Rio conventions," Agenda 21 explicitly recognized the role of the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol in contributing to achieving the objectives of the programme area “Protecting the Atmosphere."2

Agenda 21 explicitly identified stratospheric ozone protection and actions under the Montreal Protocol as a basis for action related to Protection of the Atmosphere:

  1. Addressing the uncertainties: improving the scientific basis for decision-making. “Concern about climate change and climate variability, air pollution and ozone depletion has created new demands for scientific, economic and social information to reduce the remaining uncertainties in these fields. Better understanding and prediction of the various properties of the atmosphere and of the affected ecosystems, as well as health impacts and their interactions with socio-economic factors, are needed."3
  2. Promoting sustainable development - Industrial development.  “Industry is essential for the production of goods and services and is a major source of employment and income, and industrial development as such is essential for economic growth. At the same time, industry is a major resource and materials user and consequently industrial activities result in emissions into the atmosphere and the environment as a whole. Protection of the atmosphere can be enhanced, inter alia, by increasing resource and materials efficiency in industry, installing or improving pollution abatement technologies and replacing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting substances with appropriate substitutes, as well as by reducing wastes and by-products."4
  3. Preventing stratospheric ozone depletion. “Analysis of recent scientific data has confirmed the growing concern about the continuing depletion of the Earth's stratospheric ozone layer by reactive chlorine and bromine from man-made CFCs, halons and related substances. While the 1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (as amended in London in 1990) were important steps in international action, the total chlorine loading of the atmosphere of ozone-depleting substances has continued to rise. This can be changed through compliance with the control measures identified within the Protocol."5

Though it is not directly referenced in Agenda 21, the implementation of the Montreal Protocol also contributes to the following programme area:

  • Section II, Environmentally Sound Management of Toxic Chemicals, Including Prevention of Illegal International Traffic in Toxic & Dangerous Products,  F. Prevention of illegal international traffic in toxic and dangerous products. “Further strengthening of international and regional cooperation is needed to prevent illegal transboundary movement of toxic and dangerous products. Furthermore, capacity-building at the national level is needed to improve monitoring and enforcement capabilities involving recognition of the fact that appropriate penalties may need to be imposed under an effective enforcement programme."6


Rio+20 Conference

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) is taking place on 4-6 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.7  The objective of this conference Rio+20 is to:

  • Secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development,
  • Assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and
  • Address new and emerging challenges.

The Conference is focussing on two themes:

  • A green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and
  • The institutional framework for sustainable development.

While the Montreal Protocol and ozone protection are not the subject of specific focus at Rio+20, the continuing implementation of this multilateral environmental agreement is linked to some of the major the Rio+20 themes and objectives:

  • Assessment of progress to date and gaps in implementation. The Montreal Protocol and Vienna Convention continue to make substantial and measurable contributions to achieving specific sustainable development goals identified in Agenda 2, as well as to the MDGs.
  • Institutional framework for sustainable development. The Montreal Protocol institutions – UNEP, UNDP, World Bank, Ozone Secretariat, Multilateral Fund Secretariat, GEF Secretariat, National Ozone Units have developed a highly effective institutional framework and partnership mechanism that has helped achieve Agenda 21 and other sustainable development objectives.
  • Address new and emerging challenges.  The implementation of the Montreal Protocol has achieved significant additional climate co-benefits from the phase out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and is poised to achieve more through the phase out of HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons).
  • Green Economy in the context of sustainable development. The Montreal Protocol has garnered considerable Green Economy co-benefits and has the potential to achieve even more in the future.


Montreal Protocol’s contribution to Agenda 21 and Rio+20 objectives

To quote from the 2011 report of the Millenium Development Goals: “The Montreal Protocol is an undisputed—but still unfinished—success story. Much more work remains to be done to ensure the protection of the ozone layer for this and future generations. Still, what the parties to the Protocol have managed to accomplish since 1987 is unprecedented, providing an example of what international cooperation at its best can achieve. As of end-2009, the consumption of 98 per cent of all ozone-depleting substances controlled under the Montreal Protocol had been phased out. Global observations have verified that atmospheric concentrations of such substances are declining. With full implementation of the Protocol’s provisions, the ozone layer is expected to return to its pre-1980 levels around the middle of this century. The Protocol has also delivered substantial climate benefits, since ozone-depleting substances are also global-warming gases. The reduction in such substances between 1990, when they reached peak levels, and 2000 has yielded a net reduction of about 25 billion tonnes equivalent of CO2-weighted global warming gasses.8

Since the inception of the Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund, up to December 2010, 235,604 ODP tonnes of consumption and 191,246 ODP tonnes of production of ozone depleting substances had been phased out from completed projects. The completed projects were valued at US $1.98 billion out of an approved total of approximately US $2.33 billion.9  The Multilateral Fund has supported over 6,700 projects and activities in 145 countries.  It has strengthened the national institutions of 143 developing countries through national strategies and the establishment and the operation of National Ozone Units.10  The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has also provided substantial support to Countries with Economies in Transition for the implementation of the Montreal Protocol. The overall rate of compliance with Montreal Protocol obligations by developed and developing countries alike is extremely high to date.


Footnote

  1. The Rio Conventions include the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  2. United Nations Secretariat. Agenda 21: Earth Summit - The United Nations Programme of Action from Rio (April 1993), Section II, Conservation & Management of Resources for Development, Chapter 9, para 9.2.
  3. ibid., para 9.6, 
  4. ibid., 9.16.
  5. ibid., 9.22.
  6. ibid., 19.67.
  7. http://www.uncsd2012.org/rio20/
  8. Uniited Nations Secretariat. The Millennium Development Goals Report 2011 (June 2011), 50.
  9. Multilateral Fund Secretariat. UNEP/OzL.Pro/ExCom/64/6.
  10. http://www.multilateralfund.org/default.aspx