The Montreal Protocol
Submitted by James Riordan with contributions from the Chemical Production Division
The ozone layer is the Earth’s atmospheric shield, which prevents Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from harming humans and other forms of life. In 1985, the discovery of a gaping hole in the ozone over the South Pole caused worldwide concern (Figure 1). Countries across the world then realized that they had to take action on the “ozone depleting substances” that were often used in refrigeration, air conditioning, foam blowing, aerosols, fire extinguishers and solvents.
Adopted on September 16, 1987, all 198 nation member states of the United Nations have now signed on to the Montreal Protocol. Originally designed to reduce some key substances that harm our ozone layer, the Protocol was modified over the next few years to incorporate the total phase-out of the production and consumption of over 100 ozone-depleting substances.
Parties to the Protocol have phased out 98% of ozone depleting substances globally compared to 1990 levels. Scientists monitoring the atmosphere say that this has halted the damage to the ozone layer, which should recover by the middle of this century. It is estimated that this saved 2 million people from getting skin cancer. Since many of these substances are also potent greenhouse gases, the agreement has also helped the world take a major step forward in the battle against climate change.
In 2016, Canada played a leading role in international efforts to adopt the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which requires a phase-down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). As HFCs are powerful greenhouse gases used as substitutes for some ozone-depleting substances, the Kigali Amendment is expected to contribute to avoiding up to half a degree Celsius in global temperatures by 2100.
The United Nations recognizes the Montreal Protocol as one of the most successful treaty in their history. It continues to be an inspiring example of what is possible when we all come together to tackle global problems.
We invite you to read more about some of our notable past employees who helped contribute to The Montreal Protocol:
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