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Protecting The Ozone Layer And Reducing Health Risks

World Bank/Montreal Protocol limits increase of skin cancer
Press Release No:2004/90/S
WASHINGTON, September 16, 2003—Without the Montreal Protocol, levels of ozone depleting substances in the atmosphere would have increased tenfold by 2050, which could have led to up to 20 million more cases of skin cancer and 130 million more cases of eye cataracts relative to 1980, according to the World Bank’s Montreal Protocol Status Report, launched today on the occasion of Ozone Day.

“By bringing down the release of ozone depleting substances in the atmosphere, the Montreal Protocol has set up a great example of the power of multilateralism in dealing with global environmental threats. This strong partnership of poor and rich countries, which has effectively reversed the health risks of a thinning ozone layer over our planet, has proven right the old saying that when there is a will, there is a way.” said Kristalina Georgieva, World Bank Environment Director.

According to the report, human activities cause the emission of a set of chlorine- and bromine-containing chemicals that lead to the reduction of atmospheric ozone levels.  Ozone depleting substances are found in refrigerators and air conditioners, aerosol sprays, solvents, foams, and agricultural pesticides and fumigants.  Ozone depletion results in increasing ultraviolet (UV) radiation at the Earth’s surface, which ultimately leads to higher incidence of skin cancer in humans. 

"If the Montreal Protocol is fully implemented by all Parties, scientists predict that the ozone layer should return to normal by around 2050,” said Bob Watson, World Bank Chief Scientist and Co-chair of the International Ozone Assessment.

Long-term global-scale scientific measurements beginning in 1957, says the Status Report, have shown that the ozone layer over the middle latitudes (30 – 60 degrees) in both hemispheres has been depleted at an average rate of 4 – 5 percent per decade over the period from 1979 to 1994.  Furthermore, in the early 1980s, an “ozone hole” resulting from a decline in ozone cover of up to 60 percent began to occur every Spring-time over Antarctica.

Protecting the Ozone Layer

The Montreal Protocol – an international agreement adopted in 1987 which came into force in 1990 – establishes legally binding controls on production and consumption of ozone depleting substances (ODS), with 96 chemicals covered by the Protocol.  One hundred and eighty countries have ratified the Montreal Protocol.  Approximately two-thirds of the signatories are developing countries and countries-in-transition, while the remainder are developed countries.  Parties to the Protocol have agreed to reduce and then eliminate the use of these ODS according to specific schedules.

Under the Protocol, developing countries were granted a “grace period” of 10 years before compliance with Protocol phase-out schedules was required.  In the interim, by 1999, they had to “freeze” both production and consumption of CFCs at average 1995 – 1997 levels.  With the onset of compliance, developing countries need to reduce CFCs, halons, and carbon tetrachloride by 50 percent by 2005 (note that carbon tethrachloride needs to be reduced by 85 percent by 2005), by 85 percent by 2007, and phase them out completely by 2010.

Phasing out ODS in developing countries is crucial to the success of the Montreal Protocol.  In 1986, before the Montreal Protocol, industrialized countries accounted for about 82 percent of the 1.1 million ODP tons of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) consumed globally.  However, as industrialized countries phased out ODS, developing countries continued production during their “grace period”.  By 1999, the time the Protocol stipulated for developing countries to freeze ODS levels, developing countries accounted for 84 percent of the 150,000 ODP tons of CFCs consumed globally. 

The Multilateral Fund provides technical and financial assistance exclusively to developing countries that would otherwise not have the technical and financial means necessary to phase out ODS.  As of 2002, the Multilateral Fund approved nearly $1.5 billion in funds to phase out consumption of 221,000 ODP tons through projects in 131 countries.

The World Bank’s Montreal Protocol Program

The World Bank as an implementing agency for the Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol has primarily developed technological conversion projects, through which technologies based on ozone depleting gases are phased-out and replaced by others based on ozone-friendly substances.  The main sectors targeted have been refrigeration and mobile air conditioning, foams, aerosols, solvents, and fire control.

World Bank Montreal Protocol partners were mainly chosen from the largest ODS producers and consumers of the developing world, to work to maximize the phase-out impact of the program.  The focus of investment projects was primarily determined by the availability of large, easily identifiable enterprises with high ODS consumption, further increasing project cost-effectiveness in terms of Multilateral Fund resources.  Three developing countries alone, Brazil, China, and the Republic of Korea, accounted for more than 50 percent of developing country CFC consumption in 1999, the year of the freeze.  The two largest – China and Brazil – are World Bank client countries.  The Bank’s Montreal Protocol program has also worked actively with five of the other seven developing countries that accounted for a further 25 percent of CFC consumption in 1999 – Argentina, Mexico, Thailand, India, and Indonesia. 

The Bank has played a major role in assisting developing countries to meet their obligations as Parties to the Montreal Protocol.  The Bank’s Montreal Protocol program has been active for 11 years, during which it has facilitated phase out of over 122,100 ODP tons at a cost of roughly $600 million.  Over 372 projects have reached completion as of 2003.  The Bank has partnered with 20 countries for investment projects, utilizing about 92 percent of the total financing it has received from the Multilateral Fund.

“In particular, the World Bank’s Montreal Protocol program has resulted in the elimination of nearly 70 percent of the global targets of ozone depleting substances, using only 40 percent of the international pool of resources available,” said Steve Gorman, Team Leader Montreal Protocol Operations

What if the Montreal Protocol did not exist?

According to the Status Report, between 1986 and 1999, the total global consumption of CFCs was reduced from 1.1 million to 150,000 ODP tons.  Calculations show that without the Protocol, global consumption of CFCs would have reached about 3 million ODP tons in 2010 and 8 million tons in 2060.  Compliance with the Montreal Protocol by developed and developing countries has resulted in the atmospheric concentrations of several of the most important ozone-depleting gases peaking and now declining or projected to peak and then decline within the next few years, thus reducing the threat to the ozone layer.  Indeed, recent observational evidence suggests that ozone depletion in the upper stratosphere may have already peaked and will start to recover in the near future.

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