The Montreal Protocol supports sustainable economic growth by stimulating the transition to greener technologies across multiple industrial sectors worldwide. Funding provided by the Protocol’s Multilateral Fund has facilitated that transition in developing countries, and by supporting training has helped create safe and secure working environments for all workers.
The Montreal Protocol makes many contributions to SDG8’s overall objective of promoting ‘decent work and economic growth.’ The Protocol supports economic growth (Target 8.1) and ‘higher levels of economic productivity’ (Target 8.2) and helps ‘decouple economic growth from environmental degradation’ (Target 8.4). It also contributes to ‘full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men’ (Target 8.5), especially by promoting ‘safe and secure working environments for all workers’ (Target 8.8).
The phase-out of ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) under the Montreal Protocol very clearly demonstrates how global environmental policy can improve ‘global resource efficiency in consumption and production’ and ‘decouple economic growth from environmental degradation’ (Target 8.4). As described under SDG12, since the Protocol came in to force in 1989 it has achieved the replacement of ODSs by alternatives that are not only ozone-safe but also less damaging to climate, and less toxic to humans and other organisms.
For example, the Protocol has underpinned the sustained growth of the refrigeration and air-conditioning sectors as they have transitioned to using ODS replacements and concurrently developed more energy efficient systems. The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, agreed in 2016, and which came into force in 2019, will go further to decouple the growth of this sector from ‘environmental degradation.’ The Kigali Amendment will phase down ODS replacements that are powerful greenhouse gases, and support the use of a new generation of refrigeration technologies that are safe for both the ozone layer and climate.
The socio-economic benefits of the Protocol include a shift to jobs requiring a more highly trained workforce and improved health and safety. Since its establishment in 1990, the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol (MLF) has played a substantial role in supporting training, especially in developing countries. The Montreal Protocol and the Green Economy report noted that by 2012 almost 80,000 refrigeration service technicians had been trained by MLF-supported projects. MLF’s website currently lists almost 450 projects that have supported training across approximately 100 countries.
The profound changes in equipment and processes, including entirely new commercial activities such as the capture, recycling and destruction of ODSs, has created new employment opportunities not just in refrigeration and air-conditioning but in sectors as diverse as manufacturing and agriculture. In terms of gender, the Montreal Protocol has opened new employment opportunities for women in the cooling sector, specifically refrigeration and air-conditioning. The phase-out of methyl bromide, previously used as a pesticide in agricultural, has also supported the employment of women, for example in the highly skilled operation of grafting seedlings on to pest-resistant root stocks. New opportunities have often benefitted small and medium-sized enterprises (Target 8.3). In other cases, technology transfer supported by the MLF has enabled developing countries to retain their national manufacturing capacity, so saving local jobs.
The transition away from ODSs has been achieved whilst promoting a ‘safe and secure working environments for all workers’ (Target 8.8). Implementation of the Montreal Protocol has almost completely ended the use of methyl bromide as a pesticide in agriculture and food storage. As well as being a potent ODS, methyl bromide is also highly toxic, so its replacement by non-chemical pest control systems has greatly improved worker safety.
The Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol is supporting the use of a new generation of chemicals that are safe, not only for the ozone layer and climate, but also for operators and end-users. The Protocol’s Technology and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP) continues to provide the parties with regular expert reports of the safety of new materials, for example used in foams, refrigeration or air-conditioning.