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The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal Protocol) can be further strengthened to control ozone-depleting substances and hydrofluorocarbons used as feedstocks to provide additional protection of the stratospheric ozone layer and the climate system while also mitigating plastics pollution. The feedstock exemptions were premised on the assumption that feedstocks presented an insignificant threat to the environment; experience has shown that this is incorrect. Through its adjustment procedures, the Montreal Protocol can narrow the scope of feedstock exemptions to reduce inadvertent and unauthorized emissions while continuing to exempt production of feedstocks for time-limited, 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. This paper provides a framework for policy makers, industries, and civil society to consider how stronger actions under the Montreal Protocol can complement other chemical and environmental treaties.

The Montreal Protocol has halted 99% of global production of chemical substances that deplete stratospheric ozone, which protects life on earth from the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UVB) radiation. UVB causes skin cancer and cataracts, suppresses the human immune system, destroys plastics, and damages agricultural crops and natural ecosystems. Because ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) are powerful greenhouse gases, the Montreal Protocol also protects climate. From the authors’ perspectives in multiple roles as environmental entrepreneurs, practitioners, and authorities, this paper explains how individuals, companies, and military organizations researched, developed, commercialized and implemented alternatives to ODSs that are also safer for climate. With the benefit of hindsight, the authors reflect on what was neglected or done badly under the Montreal Protocol and present lessons learned on how Montreal Protocol institutions can be renewed and revitalized to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

This assessment report aims to give a concise and accessible picture of the current availability of alternatives to high-global warming potential (GWP) hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in their main uses with the elaboration of their efficiency, cost-effectiveness, safety, environmental impacts, and technical performance, as well as their applicability at high ambient temperatures, with the goal of better informing decision-makers about the future of HFCs in a fast-evolving market and regulatory context.