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Global Climate Change DigestArchives of the
Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999



Item #d88sep1

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed on September 16, 1987, by 24 countries, plus the European Community representing 12 countries as a single signatory. It requires a fifty-percent reduction in each country's consumption of five chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) by 1999 and a freeze in the levels of three halons, based on 1986 levels. To take effect, the protocol must be ratified by eleven countries representing at least two-thirds of world CFC consumption. As of mid-September 1988, eight nations (Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Egypt, Uganda and the United States) had ratified; several others, including the European Community and Japan, were expected to ratify soon. Over a dozen additional nations had signed the protocol itself since September 16, 1987.

The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) has been the main coordinator of the protocol. Addressing the representatives of 62 countries after the final draft was negotiated last September, the executive director of UNEP stated the international community has never agreed to take such radical steps to avert an impending problem before it has begun to take its toll. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lee Thomas added that the protocol represents an unprecedented degree of cooperation in balancing environmental protection and economic development. The protocol is based on the 1985 Vienna Convention for Protection of the Ozone Layer, which also had to be ratified for the Montreal protocol to be binding. This occurred in June of this year when Uganda became the twentieth nation to ratify the Vienna Convention.

The Montreal protocol will take effect January 1, 1989, assuming ratification has occurred. The ratifying countries that are net consumers of CFCs must freeze yearly consumption of CFCs 11, 12, 113, 114 and 115, beginning July 1, 1989; net producers must similarly freeze production. There is a 10 percent allowance on these restrictions for meeting the needs of developing countries and for industrial rationalization. Industrial rationalization is the transfer of allowed production or consumption among parties to achieve economic efficiency or adjust for plant closures. Subsequent reductions from 1986 levels are to reach 50 percent by 1999, and production and consumption of halons 1211, 1301, and 2402 will be frozen at 1986 levels beginning as early as 1992. Designation of an executive body to oversee the treaty and other details of implementation such as enforcement will be determined at a general meeting once the protocol is in effect. An assessment of the treaty's effectiveness and controls would occur in 1990.

Concerns of various countries developing the protocol at the Montreal conference were detailed by P. Menyasz in BNA Environment Reporter (Oct. 14, 1987, pp. 531-535). These included providing incentives for countries to join, consideration of developing countries and those with planned economies such as the USSR, and the acceptance of the 12 member countries of the European Community as a single party to the protocol. Observers for industry and environmental groups supported the protocol, but environmental groups felt it did not go far enough. UNEP admits a two-percent reduction is expected in stratospheric ozone with the protocol in place, and uncertainties over consumption in the less developed countries could weaken the expected 50-percent reduction. The main concern of industries producing and consuming CFCs was uneven world competition if not all countries join at the same time.

Mexico was the first to file ratification and become a party to the treaty. Ratification was approved by the U.S. Senate in an 83-0 vote on March 14, 1988, and was completed with the signatures of President Reagan and Secretary of State Schultz in April. Formal ratifications have been issued by Norway, Sweden, Canada and New Zealand, and several other countries have either effectively ratified or are close to it. Specific regulations for CFC reductions are being or have been developed in many of the countries. The Environment Ministers of the European Community agreed to measures that will ensure the participation and ratification of its member countries as a single party prior to January 1, 1989. Norway and Sweden have developed regulations for a faster phaseout than specified in the protocol, and New Zealand has already frozen the importation of CFCs at 1986 levels as of July 1. Japan is considered close to ratification and has agreed to cosponsor with the United States a Pacific Rim conference on CFC alternatives in 1989. The USSR is reportedly on the verge of ratification.

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