International Agreements and Cooperation Examples: Montreal Protocol

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The Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer is an international treaty to protect the ozone layer.  The Protocol entered into force in 1989, and since then has led to a rapid and substantial reduction in ozone depletion, based on the technological phase-out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).  It boasts nearly universal coverage (after being ratified by 196 states).  Since 1989, it has been revised on several occassions to better comport with new developments.  Because of the Protocol, the ozone layer is expected to fully recover by 2050.  The Montreal Protocol is often credited with being the most successful international environmental treaty ever.

Because of its immense success, the Montreal Protocol is often cited as an ideal reference point for international climate negotiations.  But because of the vastly greater technological complexity of preventing carbon emissions compared to CFC emissions, some commentators question whether this type of comparison is relevant or useful.

Moreover, the Montreal Protocol regulates gases—HCFCs and HFCs—that are now known to contribute to climate change (and on a per-unit scale are 10,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide as greenhouse gases).  Currently, the Protocol seeks a complete phase-out of HCFCs, but does not place limits on HFCs.