The Montreal Protocol stimulates research and technological innovations that have made multiple contributions to delivering SDGs beyond those delivered directly by protecting the ozone layer. The Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol ensures that all countries benefit from these new sustainable technologies.
The Montreal Protocol helps to achieve SDG9 aims that include to ‘upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes’ (Target 9.4). The Protocol also contributes to Target 9.5, to ‘enhance scientific research, upgrade the technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries, in particular developing countries.’
When the countries of the world agreed the Montreal Protocol in 1987, they committed to protecting the stratospheric ozone layer in order to protect human health, food security, ecosystems and many aspects of the global economy. That commitment required all countries to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of ozone-depleting substances (ODSs). The successful reduction, and in most cases complete elimination of ODSs, is an unparalleled example of global environmental policy delivering the aims of SDG9 by fostering innovation and promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization.
The phase-out of ODSs was only possible because of the rapid development and deployment of innovative products and technologies across many industrial sectors. The Protocol’s Technology and Economic Assessment Panel highlights how the ozone treaties stimulated research and development across sectors, leading to many new patents. This innovation was rapid, for example The Montreal Protocol and the Green Economy report refers to sixteen patents for substances or inventions to replace ODSs in the first three years after the Montreal Protocol was signed. As described under SDG10, SDG12 and SDG17, 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 developing countries.
Refrigeration and air-conditioning were major users of ODS products, notably chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Over the last three and a half decades, the complete phase-out of CFCs has demanded profound change in refrigeration and air-conditioning technologies. The progressive transition away from CFCs has driven the development of coolants and cooling systems that are not only safe for the ozone layer, but also safe for climate. The phase-out of ODS has also allowed the development of more energy-efficient cooling systems and stimulated the establishment of an innovative infrastructure for recovering and recycling refrigerants.
CFCs were not used only as refrigerants. Alternative that are safer for both the ozone layer and climate have replaced CFCs in the production of foams in construction and furnishings. Ozone-safe alternative have also replaced CFCs in aerosols. This includes medical inhalers used for asthma and other lung diseases, a change that demanded an investment of over US$2 billion by the pharmaceutical industry.
Halons are extremely potent ODSs that were used in large-scale commercial fire protection systems, for example in telecommunications, and computing facilities. Halons have been successfully phased-out from these uses without compromising the rapid development of infrastructure such as data and server centres required for the global expansion of information and communications technology (Target 9.C).
Methyl bromide is an ODS previously used for pest and disease control during crop production and storage. As well as being a threat to the ozone layer, methyl bromide is toxic to humans and other organisms. The phase-out of methyl bromide under the Montreal Protocol has stimulated the development of alternative chemical fumigants, but also led to innovative non-chemical approaches to pest and disease control. This has supported greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies in agricultural production systems, not just in pest and disease control but also in fertilization and irrigation practices.
The Montreal Protocol has also enhanced scientific research in many disciplines (Target 9.5). The reports of the Protocol’s Science Assessment Panel highlight how the need to understand the basic processes of ozone depletion and the effects of ODS on climate has led to major advances in environmental physics and chemistry. The threat of increased UV radiation due to run-away ozone depletion has resulted in significant progress in biomedical, biological and ecological research, as highlighted by the reports of the Protocol’s Environmental Effects Assessment Panel. Our improved understanding of how UV radiation affects human health has stimulated innovation in sun-protection technologies, public health information, and mobile phone apps that allow individuals to monitor their personal sun exposure. Similarly, increased knowledge of UV effects on other organisms is now being applied in sustainable agriculture, and the development of systems using sunlight to produce clear drinking water. The threat of increased UV radiation also stimulated chemists to investigate how UV affects air quality and water quality, and even the durability of construction materials. By stimulating progress in research and innovation across these diverse scientific fields, the Montreal Protocol has contributed to many other SDGs described in other sections of this SDG website.