The World Bank held an event yesterday to celebrate the Montreal Protocol's 25th anniversary. The Bank's President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, and Environmental Protection Administrator Lisa Jackson gave the keynote addresses. Highlights from Administrator Jackson:
The Montreal Protocol has been called the most successful international environmental treaty ever – and with good reason. In the 25 years since it was first signed, the entire global community has committed to stop using and producing nearly 100 of the most ozone-damaging chemicals.
This is projected to ultimately prevent 295 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and more than 22 million cases of cataracts. And with the global phase-out of 98 percent of ozone-depleting gases in consumer, industrial and agricultural products, scientists agree that the ozone layer is now on track to recover in coming decades. ...
We’ve accomplished so much – and we’re on the path to return to pre-1980 ozone levels. But we know there are new challenges emerging.
For example, it has become clear that, while safe for the ozone layer, some alternatives [the HFCs] are also greenhouse gases. Over time, these gases could aggregate and erode some of the Montreal Protocol’s climate gains.
Given the treaty’s history of flexible accommodation to new science, we are confident that we’ll be able to address new challenges as effectively as the old ones.
The United States, along with our partners Canada and Mexico, have taken steps to respond to recent scientific findings by creating the North American Proposal to amend the Montreal Protocol. This proposal uses the treaty’s proven tools to help us fight climate change globally.
Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice-President for Sustainable Development, said this:
The CFCs story showed that the world can move at speed and scale to reduce environmental threats. Scientists realized that CFCs were depleting the ozone layer in 1974. The ozone hole over Antarctica became common knowledge in the 1980s and helped drive global action which led to the Montreal Protocol being adopted in 1987.
The World Bank has since channeled nearly $1 billion to developing countries to phase out CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances. As an implementing agency of the Protocol’s Multilateral Fund, the Bank also helps countries with strategic planning, policies, and technical support.
We now know that CFCs and their interim replacement gases - like HCFCs and HFCs - are potent greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. The Montreal Protocol, by controlling the consumption and production of these gases, has helped avoid 8 billion tons of CO2 per year – equivalent to the carbon emissions from some 1,900 power plants. ...
We need safe alternatives that are affordable in the developing world - where demand is already higher than in developed countries. Scientists are working on these replacement refrigerants, and there are early signs of progress. That’s where the private sector’s leadership will be vital – making clean alternatives that are safe, affordable, and available globally.
The Montreal Protocol showed what the world could achieve when science, technology, and government leadership work together to protect the global commons. We need to push within in order to achieve more. We need like-minded coalitions to get stuff done where we can and where political leadership eludes us. But, more, we need the ambition and dedication of the many that conceived of the Montreal Protocol, including many past and present staff of the WBG, now more than ever.