EPA Celebrates 15th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol

Sept. 18, 2002
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is marking the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement designed to protect the ozone layer, which protects the earth from the sun's ultraviolet rays. EPA is the federal agency responsible for ensuring the United States' phase-out of ozone-depleting substances.

Commenting on the success to date of efforts to implement the ozone-protection treaty, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said, "The Montreal Protocol proves that market-based approaches to environmental protection work - and work well. Scientists, government and industry have cooperated to create commercially viable alternatives to ozone depleting chemicals - faster, better and cheaper than anticipated."

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed by the United States in 1987 under President Ronald Reagan, and to date has been ratified by 183 countries.

The United States has implemented key parts of the Montreal Protocol faster and at less cost than originally anticipated. The phase-out of high-priority "Class I" substances such as CFCs has been accomplished four to six years faster, has included 13 more chemicals and cost significantly less than was predicted at the time the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments were enacted. EPA has also worked with industry to promote development of and ensure a smooth transition to alternatives to ozone depleting substances. During 2000 and 2001 alone, EPA helped bring to market 31 new, environmentally friendly alternatives to ozone depleting substances.

In the 1980s, scientists began accumulating evidence showing that the ozone layer was being depleted. Depletion of the ozone layer results in increased ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching the Earth's surface, which can lead to a greater chance of overexposure to UV radiation and the related health effects of skin cancer, cataracts, and immune suppression.

"Recovery of the ozone layer depends on continued compliance with the Montreal Protocol, particularly as developing countries begin their phase-out of ozone-depleting substances," Whitman remarked. "The United States will continue to demonstrate global leadership by supporting the use of innovative ozone-protection technologies and approaches in both this country and in developing nations."

Some environmentalists suggested the best way for EPA to celebrate the Montreal Protocol is to pressure President George Bush into signing the Kyoto Protocol, which requires mandatory cuts of greenhouse gas emissions believed to contribute to global warming. Bush, despite campaign promises to adopt the protocol, rejected it last year, despite the fact that many U.S. allies have adopted it.

"America's largest trading partner, Canada, as well as America's greatest ally, Great Britain, have announced their intention to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. Russia, China and Mexico have also committed to ratify," said Michael Dorsey, a Sierra Club director. "These countries and others have chosen to act in spite of the Bush administration's strenuous attempt to keep the climate issue off of the [Johannesburg World Summit on the environment] agenda.

"American businesses now risk being left behind as our neighbors and competitors invest more resources in new, clean and efficient technologies," continued Dorsey. "The heat is on the United States to get serious about addressing the global climate crisis."

For more information about the Montreal Protocol and EPA's Stratospheric Ozone Protection Programs, visit www.epa.gov/epahome/headline_091602.htm.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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