Ozone Treaty Lauded for Climate Protection

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Washington, DC – After almost 23 years in existence, the Montreal Protocol treaty is increasingly recognized for its success in saving the ozone layer – and in providing critical protection for the climate system. According to the 2010 UN Millennium Development Goals Report released last week, the Montreal Protocol’s regulation of ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) – also powerful greenhouse gases – “will have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 135 gigatons of CO2. This is equivalent to 11 gigatons a year, four to five times the reductions targeted in the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.”

“Montreal is sometimes left on the sidelines, mostly because it did its job so well – the bad news often makes it into the media more often than the stories of success,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “It’s important to recognize this success and to use it as proof that the world can come together on global environmental problems, to show that the Montreal Protocol has the potential to do even more for climate, and to mobilize countries to take action.”

The Montreal Protocol was named as one of the five most effective pieces of environmental law, delivering a “one-two punch” for ozone and climate protection.

At a symposium in Norway last week, U.S. Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, Maria Otero, pointed out the achievements of the Montreal Protocol and described the 2010 North American proposal for a phase-down of HFC ‘super’ greenhouse gases under the Montreal Protocol (submitted jointly by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico), noting that “the Montreal Protocol is the best forum to promote practical action on this issue.”

“HFCs are the most important climate mitigation opportunity available this year – more than 100 billion tonnes of CO2-eq., or more than 8 billion tonnes per year of CO2-eq. by 2050,” said Zaelke. HFCs are the current replacements for ozone-depleting HCFCs and can pack hundreds to thousands more global warming potential than CO2. The North American proposal to phase down HFCs as well as a similar proposal by the Federated States of Micronesia could potentially avoid several hundred billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent in emissions by 2050. “ Montreal needs to be seen not just as a past success, but as a future success – taking action on these proposals could practically eliminate one of the six greenhouse gases.”

Phasing down HFCs under Montreal (production and consumption, not emissions, which would still be controlled by the Kyoto Protocol) is consistent with the past actions by the treaty which have explicitly recognized its climate benefits: in 2007, the treaty Parties agreed to accelerate the phase-out of HCFCs – the substitutes for CFCs – to reap climate benefits of up to 16 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent by 2040.

“To protect the climate savings that the Parties have already achieved, action has to be taken now on HFCs. If we let this problem go, HFCs could become almost half of CO2 emissions by 2050 and push the world closer to abrupt climate change,” added Zaelke.

Decisions on the HFC proposals will be taken at the Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, 8 – 12 November 2010 in Kampala, Uganda.

The biggest and greatest problem I can see with all of these “legislations” is that the developed nations have no intention of implementing them properly. They are looking for ways out, by means of indulgences, called “carbon credits” nowadays, on the back of the poor nations to be able to have BAU.

We can not, however, afford the business-as-usual (BAU) approach in any way, shape or form, if we want to be able to retain an Earth where human life will continue to be possible.

It is not just carbon that counts, anyway, and we should just call it pollution again as we did in the 1960s and 1970s, for then all parts are covered and there is no escape by means of the indulgences.

The BAU approach must end as does any trading in carbon indulgences.

© 2010