Statement on the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer
The Montreal Protocol is the world’s best climate treaty and a model for a global methane agreement
As the world enters a crucial phase in the battle to combat climate change, International Ozone Day reminds us that the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is not only saving the stratospheric ozone layer and keeping us safe from harmful ultraviolet radiation but is also doing more than any other agreement to slow catastrophic global warming.
Without the Montreal Protocol, climate change would already be extensive and irreversible, and we should once again thank this brilliant agreement for all that it has done. By end of the century, the Protocol’s steady progress over its 33 years of operation will avoid 2.5°C of warming that otherwise would have already pushed the planet past irreversible tipping points. And this is in addition to achieving its original objective of putting the stratospheric ozone layer on the road to recovery.
About 1.7°C of this avoided warming comes from the Protocol’s mandatory reduction of super polluting chemicals—CFCs, HCFCs, and now HFCs—used primarily as refrigerants in cooling equipment.
An additional 0.8°C of warming will be avoided by protecting our planet’s forests and other carbon “sinks” from damaging ultraviolet radiation that reduced their ability to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it safely.
As we celebrate the achievements of this planet-saving treaty, we also need to realize how much remains to be done. The climate crisis needs solutions that can move at lightning speed, including further strengthening the Montreal Protocol to address nitrous oxide, the last unregulated ozone-depleting chemical, and a powerful climate pollutant.
We also should look to the Montreal Protocol for inspiration for other sectoral agreements, starting with methane, the most powerful climate pollutant after carbon dioxide. Tackling methane is the single biggest and fastest strategy for slowing warming in the critical next decade to 2030 and beyond, capable of avoiding nearly 0.3°C of warming by the 2040s.
With a Montreal Protocol-inspired methane agreement, we can speed up climate protection, strengthen the Paris Agreement, and give the world a fighting chance to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
There is no time left to slow-walk climate solutions. Following in the footsteps of the Montreal Protocol to speed up climate action is our best strategy for avoiding disaster.