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Global Warming

Celebrating Success, Ongoing Challenges, and Opportunities that face the Montreal Protocol

Karin Shepardson's picture

New air conditioning units manufactured in a factory.

Today (September 16) is International Ozone Day. This day offers the international community the opportunity to laud the achievements of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Since 1987, the Protocol has worked to reduce the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances (ODS), man-made industrial chemicals that damage the earth’s ozone layer.

Yet, as has become clear over the past few years, International Ozone Day is about more than just successful ozone layer protection. Given that many substances that deplete the ozone layer also have global warming potential (GWP), the transition to the use of substances with lower or no GWP has contributed important climate co-benefits over the years. As a result, the Protocol’s agenda has increasingly focused on cross-cutting themes linked with climate mitigation and energy efficiency. From both ozone and climate perspectives, the Protocol is widely recognized as a success.

The World Bank–China Montreal Protocol partnership is a testament to this success. Over the past two decades, it has phased-out more than 219,000 tons of ozone depleting substances from sectors as varied as refrigeration, air-conditioning, foam manufacturing, aerosol production, and fire extinguishing. Since these substances have GWP, the phase-out also avoided the equivalent of 885 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) or having the effect of taking 184 million cars off the roads.

Postcard from Copenhagen

Alan Miller's picture
Disappearing polar bear: climate change art work, Copenhagen. Photo ©Alan Miller/ IFC

Having attended all but two of the 15 climate change conferences, I am pretty familiar with the atmosphere, processes, and even many of the attendees.  Nevertheless, much about the Copenhagen Conference has been surprising -- the sheer number and diversity of participants, the large street protests, the media attention, the impressive engagement from the people and city of Copenhagen.  The best comparison I can make is to imagine taking the United Nations, Times Square, and Greenwich Village and put them all together under one roof. 







At the core, at most a few hundred negotiators, often sitting behind closed doors, undertake the difficult task of attempting to reach an agreement.  It is no exaggeration to say that what they do -- or fail to do -- may determine the fate of us all. Swirling all around them are thousands of people from every imaginable (and unimaginable) perspective, traditional environmental groups, indigenous peoples, business organizations, religious and spiritual believers, the media (press interviews pop up randomly in the halls) and of course the international organizations. 

Hopenhagen: central square filled with climate change activities, Copenhagen. Photo ©Alan Miller/IFC

Those of us from IFC (three or four this week) are a small part of the World Bank Group delegation, which numbers more than fifty; the World Bank is in turn only one of many international organizations. World Bank President Zoellick arrives today -- it will be interesting to see his role and impact.

As the senior political level officials enter this week, the process seems to be reaching a breaking point with four days still to go. The registration lines are slowing to a crawl and observer organizations have been told to reduce their numbers by half or more due to the capacity limits of the building (actually, multiple buildings several of which are temporary). Every day the few members of our delegation actually observing the negotiations report little or no progress. Yesterday they were told to leave when the meetings entered the sensitive "informal" stage. 

President  Robert Zoellick (World Bank) with President Mohamed Nasheed (Maldives). Photo ©Alan Miller/IFC


The ultimate hope for a positive outcome remains pending the arrival of an expected 110 plus heads of state.  As the Convention Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer told us in a briefing last week, "they come to celebrate, not to commiserate."  As of today it's difficult to believe that heads of state can do in two days what their ministers and staff have been unable to do in months of meetings. 

We'll all know soon.