Montreal Protocol signed 30 years ago has grown into a success story in international environmental protection

15.9.2017 9:30

16 September marks the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol. Thanks to the protocol, the ozone layer is now recovering and it is expected to be almost fully restored in about 50 to 70 years. All countries of the world have ratified the protocol.

"The Montreal Protocol is a success story in international environmental protection. The protocol has contributed to a reduction in the global use of substances that deplete the ozone by more than 98%. This means that millions of people have avoided skin cancer and eye diseases and grain yields have been secured", says Minister for Housing, Energy and the Environment Kimmo Tiilikainen.

Ozone layer protects life on Earth from excessive UV radiation that causes skin cancer and other health problems in humans and damages plants and plankton. The hole in the ozone layer discovered in the atmosphere above the Antarctic in 1985 gave rise to major concerns about the depletion of the ozone layer and the threat this causes to Earth.

It soon became evident that the hole in the ozone layer had been caused by the commonly used CFC gases – mainly freons used for cooling and refrigeration – and halons used in fire protection systems. By the protocol signed on 16 September 1987 the countries agreed on putting an end to the production and use of these substances.

Ozone layer is slow to recover and needs to be monitored closely

The Montreal Protocol has been very well respected. According to follow-up studies, the emissions of chlorine compounds started to fall soon after the protocol was signed. However, the recovery of the ozone layer is a very slow process as the substances that deplete it persist in the atmosphere for a long time.

The Finnish Meteorological Institute has participated in several satellite projects where the development of the ozone layer has been followed. The Finnish-Dutch ozone monitoring instrument OMI in the NASA satellite has been measuring the ozone layer on the global scale since 2004. These measurements have continued the studies started already in 1979.

"The situation looks quite good at the moment, but the state of the ozone layer needs to be monitored very closely. Because of climate change the ozone layer of the future differs from that in the 1980s, which may have some impact on its recovery. This is why we cannot just assume that the situation stays good, but further studies are still needed", says Erkki Kyrölä, Research Professor at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

The TROPOMI instrument to be launched from Russia next month continues the ozone time series measurements made by OMI. TROPOMI, built in cooperation between the Netherlands and the European Space Agency ESA, will be carried by the Sentinel 5 Precursor satellite, and it is part of the Copernicus remote sensing system of the European Commission.

Montreal Protocol contributes to the efforts to mitigate climate change

In autumn 2016 the nations of the world agreed in Kigali, Rwanda that the HFC gases used to substitute for substances that destroy the ozone layer will also be covered by strict regulation under the Montreal Protocol.

HFC compounds are strong greenhouse gases whose use is growing rapidly especially in the developing world as the increasingly wealthy middle class is buying refrigeration and air conditioning appliances. HFC gases were used as substitutes for substances that destroyed the ozone layer, but they were intended as a temporary solution only. Now their production and consumption is also being regulated on the global scale.

"It is estimated that by actions specified in the Montreal Protocol we can prevent carbon dioxide emissions corresponding to 70 gigatons by 2050. Reducing the use of HFC compounds is one of the most significant individual measures in stopping the global temperature rise", says Eeva Nurmi, Ministerial Adviser at the Ministry of the Environment.

"We may even double the already highly significant climate benefits to be derived from the Kigali Agreement by improving the energy efficiency of cooling and refrigeration appliances and using more energy-efficient substances such as natural refrigerants in these," says Tapio Reinikainen, Senior Officer at the Finnish Environment Institute.

Tukes keeps a register on qualified refrigerator equipment companies

The placing on the market of refrigerants that harm the ozone layer was prohibited in Finland years ago, and the substances used earlier have been replaced by F-gas refrigerants. The refrigerator equipment companies included in the register of the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency Tukes install and maintain equipment containing F-gas-based refrigerants.

More information:

Erkki Kyrölä, Research Professor, Finnish Meteorological Institute, tel. +358 50 339 7041, firstname.lastname@fmi.fi

Eeva Nurmi, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 295 250 209, firstname.lastname@ym.fi

Tapio Reinikainen, Senior Officer, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, tel. +358 295 251 847, etunimi.sukunimi@ymparisto.fi

Article in ATMOS: atmoslehti.fi/kansainvalisyys/montrealin-sopimuksen-menestystarina/

UV index forecast: http://en.ilmatieteenlaitos.fi/uv-index

Real-time ozone and UV levels in northern Europe: sampo.fmi.fi

Tukes register of refrigerator equipment companies that install and maintain equipment containing F-gas-based refrigerants: http://rekisterit.tukes.fi/fi/Urakoitsijat/

Ozone Secretaria, Ozone heroes: http://ozone.unep.org/