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The Montreal Protocol protects the ozone layer as well as our climate, and so helps reduce environmental shocks and disasters that would otherwise slow-down socioeconomic development and exacerbate poverty. The Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol has supported the transition to climate and ozone-safe technologies in developing countries by providing more than US$4 billion for projects including capacity building, institutional strengthening and technology transfer.

Under its headline target to ‘End poverty in all its forms everywhere’, SDG1 refers to the vital role of creating ‘sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels’ (Target 1B). At first sight, it might seem that this target refers exclusively to economic policies, but SDG1 recognises that ending poverty is also strongly linked to environmental policies. This is clear in SDG target 1.5:

‘By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters.’ 

The links between environmental challenges and poverty are highlighted in the 2019 progress report for SDG1, which notes ‘disasters often lead to a downturn in the trajectory of socioeconomic development and exacerbate poverty. From 1998 to 2017, direct economic losses from disasters were estimated at almost US$3 trillion, of which climate-related disasters accounted for 77 per cent of the total.’ 

These figures provide context for the contribution of the Montreal Protocol to SDG1 by preventing the environmental shocks and disasters that would have resulted from uncontrolled release of ozone depleting substances (ODS), such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Since CFCs are highly potent greenhouse gases, the control of ODS by the Montreal Protocol is already equivalent to around 135 billion tonnes of CO2, and by 2070 controlling ODS emissions will have prevented temperature increases of over 2°C in the tropics by 2070  and up to 6°C at the poles. The Kigali Amendment to the Protocol is set to avoid another 0.4°C by controlling high global warming hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The extreme weather events associated with such uncontrolled warming would likely have had particularly severe impacts in low- and middle-income countries. For example, the 2019 progress report for SDG1 notes ‘economic losses from disasters as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) were also much higher in these low- and middle-income countries.’

Of course, protecting the ozone layer also prevents the wide-ranging and severe impacts associated with the large increases in ultraviolet (UV) radiation that results from uncontrolled ozone depletion. Increased UV radiation would have been a profound threat to SDG1 through damaging effects on health, food production, ecosystems and even infrastructure. 

While these contributions to SDG1 come from the environmental shock and disasters that the Montreal Protocol has avoided, the implementation of the Protocol has also made direct contributions to ending poverty. The successful reduction and in most cases complete elimination of ODSs has only been possible because of the rapid development and deployment of innovative products and technologies across many industrial sectors. The Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol plays a vital role in ensuring that innovative products and technologies are tested and deployed in low- and medium-income countries. Since it was established in 1990, the Multilateral Fund has received more than by US$4 billion from developed countries to support projects including industrial conversion, training and capacity building. MLF projects result in new employment opportunities in sectors as diverse as refrigeration and air-conditioning, manufacturing and agriculture. In other cases, technology transfer supported by the MLF has enabled low- and medium-income countries to retain their national manufacturing capacity, so saving local jobs. The MLF often works via multi-stakeholder partnerships, for example with additional direct funding from individual nations to ‘mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources.’

The achievements of the Multilateral Fund are an excellent example of a global environmental treaty contributing to the successful delivery of SDG Target 1A, which refers to the ‘significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources’ to end poverty in all its forms.