Montreal: Tackling Global Problems Between Hockey Seasons

Welcome back to our series on the phaseout of R-22 refrigerant. If you’re new, we’ve already talked introduced the key points and last week we talked about what, exactly, R22 is. I promise today’s installment will be a lot easier (and shorter!) than the chemistry issue from last week. We know why R22 became so popular, and why it’s something that we can’t use forever. We left off with the scientists sounding the alarm, and the politicians convening an international cooperative effort to slow or reverse the harmful effects of CFC’s.

In 1985, the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer met in Vienna, Austria. Let’s take a second to be jealous of the amazing coffee, pastries, and surrounding beautiful architecture. Then we can remind ourselves about the terribly dry chemistry we learned about last time and be grateful that we sat through that for one post, not for the duration of a conference that involved 197 countries and the translation of all of this terribly dry material into six different languages. Feel better now about the coffee? Good!

The Vienna Convention itself is a framework. It gets everyone on the same page about why the Ozone layer needs protecting and what it needs protecting from. We aren’t talking about any of the other issues that are included in the framework, just the CFC’s that we deal with in our industry. The Vienna Convention doesn’t require any specific action, it just set up a process for each of the broad categories of problems to be addressed at smaller conventions, which are known as Protocols. The Protocol that affects us and covers CFC’s was held in Montreal, which is where it got the brilliantly original name of “the Montreal Protocol.” Other revisions to the Vienna Convention have been held in London, Nairobi, Copenhagen, Bangkok, back to Vienna (they were out of the good coffee by then), and Beijing. The Montreal Protocol is the most famous of these revisions, and Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, called it one of the most successful international agreements of all time.

The Montreal Protocol is where we get the key dates for this phaseout. The treaty set up a plan to manage the phaseout and gradually take all CFC’s out of production. The first benchmark was set in 1991 and the last is scheduled for 2030. Each benchmark establishes a freeze or reduction point for specific substances, with the ultimate goal being elimination. The treaty also sets up funding through the United Nations and the World Bank for developing countries to participate without bringing their development to a screeching halt.

Even though the United States was already looking into these problems, we are signatory to both the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol. We’ll talk more about the requirements in the US next time. For now, I think I’m going to go grab a cup of Johan.

Auf Wiedersehen!

– Shanna