Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

Controlling Chemical Feedstocks under the Montreal Protocol Will Protect Oceans and Atmosphere

Washington DC, 29 November 2021— Tightening feedstock controls under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal Protocol) will provide substantial environmental benefits to the ozone layer and climate while reducing plastic pollution and persistent organic pollutants, concludes a provocative new paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Narrowing Feedstock Exemptions Under the Montreal Protocol Has Multiple Environmental Benefits, authored by a team of international climate and ozone technical experts, lawyers, and scientists, explains how the Montreal Protocol can be further strengthened to narrow exemptions for ozone-depleting greenhouse gas (GHG) feedstocks used in the manufacture of plastics. These plastics pollute the land, rivers, and oceans with toxic and hazardous waste that threatens current and future generations.

“Plastic pollution is a growing threat impacting the well-being of every living creature on this planet. This paper starts the conversation on how the Montreal Protocol can be helpful in reducing plastic waste under other treaties, national and regional regulations, and voluntary programs,” said Dr. Stephen O. Andersen, Director of Research at the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD) and co-lead author of the paper. “We must commit to aggressively reducing plastic using all the strategies at our disposal.”

The authors explain that Montreal Protocol Parties have existing authority through its adjustment and amendment procedures to vote to narrow the scope of existing feedstock exemptions to reduce inadvertent and unauthorized ozone-depleting GHG emissions while continuing to exempt production of feedstocks for time-limited and essential uses. This upstream approach can be an effective and efficient complement to other efforts to reduce plastic pollution.

Existing mechanisms in the Montreal Protocol, such as the Assessment Panels and national implementation strategies, can guide the choice of environmentally superior substitutes for feedstock-derived plastics.

“Complex chemical pathways are involved in using ozone-depleting substances and hydrofluorocarbons as feedstocks to produce plastics.   As a starting point, we estimate that up to 6% of plastics can be potentially avoided if relevant feedstocks were curtailed,” said Dr. Song Gao, Professor of Environmental Science and Chemistry at Duke Kunshan University and Professor of the Practice of Global Studies at Duke University, and co-lead author of the paper.

“The Montreal Protocol has not only put the stratospheric ozone layer on a path to recovery, but it has also done more than any other agreement to slow catastrophic global warming. With time running out to avert the worst of climate impacts, we must do all we can to reduce warming fast,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development and co-author of the paper. “This paper challenges policymakers, industries, and civil society to take fast action under the Montreal Protocol to further protect stratospheric ozone and climate while reducing hazardous and toxic feedstock and plastic pollution. This is a winning strategy for the climate, the planet, and all peoples.”

Download Narrowing Feedstock Exemptions Under the Montreal Protocol Has Multiple Environmental Benefits here.

For media inquiries and additional information, please contact: Dr. Stephen O. Andersen, +1 202 255 3733, sandersen@igsd.org