International Agreements On Ozone Depletion Politics Essay

23 Mar 2015

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The ozone layer that protects the Earth from the ultraviolet rays sent down by the sun is nowadays depleted by human action. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), chemicals found mainly in spray aerosols heavily used by industrialized nations for much of the past 50 years, are the primary culprits in ozone layer breakdown.

The effects of ozone destruction on the planet could be catastrophic and poses a cataclysmic threat to all nations. [1] Bearing in mind the destructive ability of this process forced international community to draw out special measures in response to global problem. Several legal instruments have been formulated: the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (1985), the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987), and a series of amendments made in 1990, 1992, and 1997.

Despite drawing out growing number of international documents those manifest tangible change in the approach to global environmental problems another problem raises regarding to their enforcement and effectiveness. It is questionable whether the Protocol can be enforced in a world of sovereign states empowered and intent to act for their own welfare rather than for the benefit it of the international community.

Full accomplishment of this measures requires from all countries to act together, while each state operate according to its own interests and restrain the enforcement of agreements. State sovereignty, a basic tenet of international law, prevents an international body from forcibly compelling a nation to comply with agreements. [2] 

The paper highlights the dilemma statesmen constantly face with, how to answer public rising demands and protect environment from CFC gazes that deplete the Ozone layer at the same time. [3] CFCs regulations raises serious economic consequences that affect the economic welfare of the State.In the first place, as regulation of CFCs under the Protocol requires reduced production and consumption of the chemicals, the CFC industries will no longer need to employ a sizeable work force. Therefore, regulation under the Protocol will exacerbate unemployment. In the second place, the price of CFC-produced goods will increase. The extraterritorial effects of CFC consumption further hinder enforcement of the Protocol. Therefore, the third economic consequence of the Protocol is that countries which breach the agreement will not bear the true cost of the devastation caused by CFC production. Effect of regulations upon less developed countries where industry serves as a means of creating jobs, income, and financial stability. Regulation will at least partially prevent many less developed countries from starting or continuing their industrialization process, and thus, effectively deprive them of future development.

Also the protocols contains certain gaps. For example, Montreal Protocol contains an article titled "Non-compliance," this clause remains without substantive meaning and thus demonstrates the Protocol's lack of enforcement potential. [4] 

In addition, while state remain sovereign over its territory complete accomplishment of this regulations seems to be hardly accessible.

Ozone Layer and its importance

In atmosphere Ozone occupies a very small part. In total, it makes up only 0.6 parts per million of the atmosphere. But its presence is essential for human well-being. Ozone is located in the upper part of the atmosphere known as stratosphere, where is contained in the "ozone layer" and protects us by diminishing greater concentrations of harmful radiation reach the earth's surface.

In the mid-1970s scientists discovered that some chemicals produced and used by humans could destroy ozone and deplete the ozone layer. However for that period fears of ozone layer destruction were based upon theoretical prediction instead of observations. Only the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) deployments of sophisticated satellites partially confirmed theoretical forecasts. Analysis of data collection indicated that each year from 1970 to 1981 ozone had been depleted by 0.15 percent, and between 1978 to 1984 an annual depletion reached 0.5 percent.

Nowadays it is not debatable that the ozone layer is deteriorating due to the pollution containing the chemicals chlorine and bromine. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), those are the primary culprits in ozone layer breakdown are found mainly in spray aerosols. An aerosol spray containing deodorant, paints, insect repellant, foam insulation in a refrigerator, air conditioners, many thing that make our life easier and comfortable have negative and destructive effects, and common aspect for them is that they cause ozone depletion.

Such destruction of ozone layer allows large amount of radiation to reach Earth, which can cause many serious problem to human health, from skin cancer to cataracts. Ultraviolet B rays is able to harm animals as well. It inhibits the reproductive cycle of phytoplankton, that in turn lower the populations of other animals. As well as reproductive rates of fishes, crabs, fogs are affected by the radiation.

The Montreal Protocol- response to the Ozone Crisis

Formulating stratospheric ozone policy is connected to early and mid-1970s years and associated with USA's increased interests toward this issue, while other nations, most European countries showed little interest.

In 1985 the 20 nations by signing the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer agreed to take measures in order to protect the ozone layer. For that period the Vienna Convention was important stepping point supported future protocols and cooperation among nations as made the exchange of information and research easier. In response to growing concern, in 1987 was signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and after the ratification entered into force in 1989.

Nations by ratifying agreed to:

freeze consumption and production of CFC-11, -12, -113, -114 and -115 in a first step in 1990 to the level of 1986

cut consumption and production by 20% in 1994

cut consumption and production by an additional 30% in 1999

freeze consumption and production of the halons 1301, 1211 and 2402 after 1990 to the level of 1986. [5] 

While analyzing the Montreal Protocol scientists underline four-pronged approach to ozone protection:

Firstly, the protocol obliges the countries to freeze, and eventually reduce, production and consumption of CFCs. Furthermore article 2 of the protocol provide control measures, and a schedule for accomplishment protocols requires.

Secondly, it's important to highlight Article 6, which provides for periodic assess of the control measures stated according the Article 2.

Third, the Protocol support less developed countries with special assistance that means finding and implementing alternative substances and technologies, as well taking the form of special incentives from the developed countries (bilaterally and multilaterally), including subsidies, aid, credits, guarantees, and insurance policies.

Finally, in order to encourage more countries to sign the agreement, the Protocol imposes restrictions on trade of ozone depleting products. [6] (47) The agreement bans imports of CFCs from any state not party to the Protocol. [7] (48) No party operating under Paragraph 1 of Article 5 may export CFCs to non-parties beginning January 1, 1993. [8] (49)

We cannot refuse the success of Montreal Protocol, as a result of this agreement , the quantity of ozone-depleting gases in the atmosphere has begun to decrease that is especially noticeable in recent years. By 2005 its parties could afford cutting the consumption and production ozone-depleting substances by 95 per cent. [9] Scholars considers its flexible and dynamic design as main point of its success, that had enabled it to improve scientific understanding of the global problem. Another important aspect is the Protocol's Multilateral Fund one of the first real financial mechanisms intended to support environmental treaty obligations that provides developing countries with help to accomplish obligations.

Statistics show that if nations don't stop accomplishment of Protocol's measures the decrease will continue throughout the 21st century. Some individual gases, such as halons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), are still increasing in the atmosphere but will begin to decrease in the next decades if compliance with the Protocol continues. Around midcentury, the effective abundance of ozone-depleting gases should fall to values that were present before the Antarctic "ozone hole" began to form in the early 1980s. [10] 

In spite of obstacles those will be discussed below Montreal Protocol represents refined document clarify the problem and states measures to deal with. Furthermore it revealed the changed approach to global environmental problem and supported further cooperation and collaboration while most of the counties had showed little or no interest.

The Second, Fourth, Ninth and Eleventh Meetings of the states ratified the Montreal Protocol adopted Amendments to the Protocol in accordance with paragraph 4 of Article 9 of Vienna Convention- The Lond Amendment (1990), the Copenhagen Amendment (1992), the Montreal Amendment (1997) and the Beijing Amendment (1999). [11] 

Where lies the problem?

All this means that international society shows increasing interest to ozone depletion issue. A lot of agreements, meeting and international conferences have been devoting to this global problem and some progress has been made, but is it working effectively? Where lies the problem that hinder the accomplishment of regulations sufficiently?

To begin with, ozone depletion presents very serious problem. Our generation has already been negatively affected by its consequences and future generations will encounter its destructive influence more dramatically. But are we ready to sacrifice for the benefit of the future? I think no. In general humans are egoists in their nature. Nobody deny himself/herself taking pleasure from his/her comfort items with the purpose of caring for future, welfare of future generations.

However we are witnessing accelerating pace of technological development that lets us to produce things more effectively without using as much CFCs chemicals as it used in past years, but population throughout the world is increasing with very high speed as well. This means increased demands in condition of natural resources' scarcity. All this determine that CFCs gases are not reduced in accordance with necessity. Of course we cannot refuse the fact of reduction ozone depleting substances although ozone-depleting chemicals stay in the atmosphere for an extremely long time. Hence the relevant harms are difficult to reverse. Even with action that is immediate and aggressive, the underlying problems will hardly be eliminated all at once. [12] 

In the first place, obedience to regulations of CFCs under the protocol means reduction of production as well as consumption of the chemicals. The process regarding such reduced productivity increases unemployment so CFC industries will no longer need to employ work force, so regulations will aggravate unemployment. Ozone depleting substances are mostly used in manufacture that insures our comfortable life. Restrictions in using such a chemicals in the process of production increase prices that directly raises serious economic consequences affecting the economic welfare of people and entire State.

Furthermore, industry is vital for the development of less developed countries as a source of creating jobs, increasing income and ensuring political, economic stability. Regulations can easily deprive their future development by preventing them from continuing their industrialization process.

Thus international agreements have been facing serious obstacles. Western European countries were strongly opposed to control measures. Including the USA business opposed accepting the control measures due to dilemma between environmental and economic interests.

Except of such obstacles many country turned to supporting cooperation. For example, Germany was the largest producer in the European Community and yet became one of the first European countries to support international regulations. [13] 

Also the protocols contains certain gaps. For example, Montreal Protocol contains an article titled "Non-compliance," this clause remains without substantive meaning and thus demonstrates the Protocol's lack of enforcement potential. [14] 


The international response to ozone depletion provides a comparably successful example of global cooperation in the era of globalization. Attitudes among states, civil society and individuals about ozone depletion have changed as a response to the immense effort of the Vienna Convention on Ozone Depletion and the subsequent Montreal Protocol. However, despite the success of some efforts, ozone depletion remains a problem.

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