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Montreal Protocol: Global cooperation protecting life on earth

The adoption of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer 35 years ago marked a turning point in environmental history. The Protocol has become a symbol of what global cooperation can achieve if people unite and work together to protect the environment.

On this thirty-fifth anniversary, we will remember how the Montreal Protocol ended one of the biggest threats ever to face humanity: the depletion of the ozone layer. When the world found out that man-made chemicals used in aerosol sprays and cooling were creating a hole in the sky, they came together.

On 16 September 1987, governments adopted the Montreal Protocol to control and reduce ozone-depleting substances, mainly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons. The Protocol came into effect in 1989. By 2008, it was the first and only UN environmental agreement to be ratified by every country in the world. With over 99 per cent of ozone-depleting substances now phased out, the ozone layer is healing.

“In the face of a triple planetary crisis – climate change, nature loss and pollution – the Montreal Protocol is one of the best examples we have of the power of multilateralism; how global cooperation can protect life on Earth, which is the theme of this year’s World Ozone Day thirty-fifth anniversary,” said Meg Seki, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP’s) Ozone Secretariat.

A recent study estimates that without the Montreal Protocol ban on CFCs, less carbon would have been absorbed and stored in plants, vegetation and soil – Earth’s carbon sink. The CO2 absorbed over the past 35 years combined with the ban on ozone-depleting substances has avoided a catastrophic global temperature rise of an estimated 2.5°C by 2100.

The work on climate is far from done, however. Under the Kigali Amendment, which came into force in January 2019, nations have committed to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – potent greenhouse gases often used as replacements for the banned ozone-depleting substances in refrigerators and air-conditioners. Global compliance with the Kigali Amendment could avoid up to 0.4°C of global temperature rise by the end of the century.

As the world grows hotter and the demand for cooling rises, we need to ensure that future cooling technologies are sustainable. The Protocol and its Kigali Amendment promote the adoption of climate friendly and energy-efficient cooling technologies. This will potentially lead to additional climate and other benefits. For instance, making cold chains more sustainable and available, food loss and waste would be reduced, further decreasing carbon emissions, as well as increasing food security.

On this World Ozone Day, we celebrate the achievements of the Montreal Protocol: the Protocol that through global cooperation protected all living things, now and into the future.

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