How Nations Worked Together to Address the Ozone Hole

Way back in 1987 nations of the world signed the Montreal Protocol to address some environmental problems. The biggest environmental issue discussed at the time was the hole in the ozone layer and thanks to everyone confronting it the hole in the ozone layer is basically gone. It’s proof that if the political will is there then we can solve any global environmental problem by working together!

We don’t hear much about the hole in the ozone layer anymore. That’s because we’ve all but fixed it, thanks to consumer choices and a massive international agreement called the Montreal Protocol. Can we learn anything from this environmental success story that will help us fix climate change?

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Saving the Ozone Layer Helped More Than We Thought

It turns out when nations of the world get together to try and save the environment they can be really good at it. The Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987 to save the ozone layer, and it did. Indeed, a new report says that it not only saved the ozone layer the protocol also cut greenhouse gas emissions. This meant that nations that signed the protocol had a spin-off benefit of reducing their nation’s carbon footprint.

Great things can happen if the politicians of our world work together.

Under the Montreal Protocol—which was enforced by the EPA’s Clean Air Act—the US saw a a near-complete phaseout of CFCs beginning in 1996, and a 95 percent decline in HCFCs since 1998. Pulling data from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s atmospheric monitoring network, Lei Hu from the University of Colorado Boulder and her colleagues demonstrated that from 2008 to 2014, the elimination of these substances had the equivalent climate impact of reducing CO2 emissions by 170 million tons per year. Projecting forward, the researchers found that the continued implementation of the Montreal Protocol and its amendments could shave some 500 million tons of CO2 off our carbon footprint annually by 2025, compared with 2005 emissions levels.

 For context, 500 million tons of CO2 is roughly a quarter of what we need to cut to meet our Paris Climate Agreement target, of reducing emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025. It’s also close to the annual US emissions from the entire agriculture sector.

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Countries Agree that Ozone Layer is Good

In what is deemed an historic agreement all the nations of the UN have agreed to speed up the pace of phasing out of a dangerous chemical compound known as HCFC. HCFCs replaced the more dangerous CFCs (they both cause damage to the ozone layer) many years ago and now are now ready to be replaced themselves. It’s good to see another damaging chemical will be used less and less with every coming year.

Governments of 190 countries, in addition to the European Commission, agreed to freeze production of HCFCs at average 2009-10 levels in 2013. That deadline replaces an earlier target of 2016.
Developed countries also have agreed to end HCFC production in 2020, instead of 2030. The pact also says that by 2010 they will reduce production and consumption of HCFCs by 75 per cent and then by 90 per cent by 2015, five years before their final phase-out.

Ozone Hole Stabilizing

ozoneLisa writes to us and says that “the hole in the ozone layer has stabilized, and may close again in 60 years, thanks to successful international environmental agreements.”

This latest report is similar to one we mentioned earlier about the ozone hole, however the new report says it will take a few years longer. I still find it rewarding to see that when politicians notice an environmental problem (the hole in the ozone layer) and work on it internationally things happen.

Proof that if we tried hard enough we can combat climate change.

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