The discovery of a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica in the mid-1980s confirmed a tale of impending environmental disaster resulting directly from economic development. Thirty years later, with concerted global effort, the ozone layer is healing itself, and the strategy driving its recovery exemplifies how international partnerships can work together successfully towards a common goal.
The ozone success story is a model for united action that countries can learn from when implementing the post-2015 development agenda, to be rolled out in New York later this year. It is clear that this agenda will integrate social, environmental and economic factors in equal parts into measures of development.
These sectors cannot be considered in isolation without understanding their impacts on others. Development cannot be a zero-sum game, where benefits to one sector are made at the expense of another.
This premise is fundamental to the concept of Green Economy. In an era when around 1 billion people still live on less than US$1.25 a day, it is clear that conventional economic growth has not been the panacea hoped for by some.
Green Economy should generate growth whilst eliminating persistent poverty and environmental degradation, areas where conventional economic growth has failed.
In response to the ozone crisis, the Montreal Protocol was, uniquely for an environmental treaty, universally ratified; it now has 197 parties. It brought together scientists, industry and government to work in an unprecedented partnership towards a common goal.
The success of this global partnership was made through the acceptance by governments of international scientific assessments, which then informed policy, both nationally and internationally. Leaders took decisions to eliminate the consumption and production of ozone-depleting substances because there was solid scientific evidence linking human activities to ozone depletion—and linking that, in turn, to an increased incidence of skin cancer in people—as well as up-to-date information on the technological developments on alternatives to ozone-depleting substances.
Action was based on people’s needs and concerns as well as on plausible future scenarios indicating the implications of inaction. As the host to the Montreal Protocol, and one of its four implementing partners, UNEP has been key in its execution.
More than US$3.7 billion has been contributed to the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol to cover the incremental costs incurred by developing countries in converting to non-ozone-depleting-substance technologies. The resulting changes in practices, and especially in developments in the chemical manufacturing industry, have altered global consumption and production patterns, greening global value chains.
Two million prevented cases of skin cancer per year by 2030 is one estimated social benefit of the Protocol’s implementation; and in terms of environmental benefit, immeasurable damage to crops, forests and wildlife from ultraviolet radiation has been averted.
The behaviour of taking global action to achieve a development goal of universal benefit needs to be emulated in the sustainable development agenda. The Montreal Protocol resulted from a careful assessment of the social and environmental costs of continuing a course of action against its economic benefits, undertaken globally.
This is the exact premise behind the post-2015 development agenda. The ozone success story can be used as a model for common international action and global partnership, among all stakeholders, in taking on and committing to the work required to fulfil the sustainable development goals and develop a global green economy.
See more at: www.ozone.unep.org