Celebrating 30 years of the Montréal Protocol

Picture by Kaushik Panchal

Saturday, September 16, is the 30th anniversary of the agreement that led to the Montréal Protocol, which was designed to phase out industrial emissions that depleted our ozone layer.

A number of substances banned under the Protocol were also important greenhouse gases.

Prior to the Montreal agreement it had been discovered that certain industrial gases, in particular chlorofluorocarbons, had been reacting in the atmosphere, creating a hole in the ozone layer. This hole expanded markedly during spring over the poles and had been growing in size annually.

Ozone is an important gas for life on Earth because it absorbs UV-B radiation and its decline through industrial emissions would likely lead to increases in skin cancer, and damage to crops and phytoplankton.

Acting with a sense or urgency, governments around the world came together to enact the Montréal protocol, which was described by former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan as “perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date”. But even with its success, the effects will take time to manifest. The most recent assessment of the ozone hole suggests it will take another 30 to 40 years to shrink to the size it was in 1980.

You can find out more about the Montréal Protocol through this excellent story in The Conversation by colleagues at CSIRO and also uncover how the Protocol had an impact on climate change with this story written last year by our own Prof David Karoly.

This is an important anniversary, and not just for the Protocol’s impact on the ozone layer, but because it shows that with a united purpose governments around the world can make a difference to global emissions.

 

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