Hailed as the most successful treaty in UN history - for achieving universal ratification and meeting its targets ahead of schedule, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer will celebrate its 25th anniversary on 16 September.
The Protocol, which was ratified by 197 countries, has enabled reductions of over 98 per cent of all global production and consumption of controlled ozone-depleting substances.
The Protocol also oversaw the global phase-out of chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) by 2010.
Global observations have verified that atmospheric levels of key ozone depleting substances are going down and it is believed that with implementation of the Protocol's provisions the ozone layer should return to pre-1980 levels by 2050 to 2075;
Thanks to controls implemented under the Protocol, the global community will be spared millions of cases of skin cancer and cataract - in addition to trillions of dollars in health care.
Direct health care savings in the US alone is estimated at USD $4.2 trillion.
Globally, the Protocol is estimated to have prevented 19 million more cases of non-melanoma cancer, 1.5 million more cases of melanoma cancer and 130 million more cases of eye cataracts.
Action under the Protocol has also had significant climate benefits.
Because ozone depleting substances are also global warming gases, the reduction in the production and use of these substances yielded a net integrated reduction of approximately 25 billion tonnes of CO2 between 1990 and 2000.
“As we look to mitigate and adapt to climate change, tackle other environmental threats and implement the outcomes of the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development, the story of the Montreal Protocol highlights the benefits of pursuing an inclusive green economy. It shows that, in acting on one issue, many others can be addressed too,” said UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon.
“The Montreal Protocol has demonstrated that fundamental principles – such as science-based policy making, the precautionary approach, common but differentiated responsibilities and equity within and between generations –can benefit all nations,” he added.
The Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund has assisted developing countries to meet their compliance commitments by financing industrial conversion, technical assistance, training and capacity building support worth over US $2.8 billion.
It is estimated that, without the Protocol, by the year 2050 ozone depletion would have risen to at least 50 per cent in the northern hemisphere's mid-latitudes and 70 per cent in the southern mid-latitudes, about 10 times worse than current levels.
UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, said: "The establishment of the Montreal Protocol in 1987 set the world on track to reduce and phase-out a wide range of chemicals found in products from hairsprays and fire-fighting equipment to foams and air conditioners that were destroying the ozone layer and leading to dangerous 'holes' over Antarctica and also the Arctic. Recently the world has learnt that these cuts and phase-outs have also benefited the climate because the substances of concern are also powerful greenhouse gases.”
“The Green Economy, in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, may be a recent term. But the work on repairing the ozone layer and now combating climate change underlines that a Green Economy has been forged over many years even if we did not use that term at the time," added Steiner.
Despite the successes, governments still face major challenges.
Under the protocol, developing countries will need to phase out the consumption and production of HCFCs which have adverse effects on ozone protection and the global climate.
Marco Gonzalez, Executive Secretary of the UNEP Ozone Secretariat said: “Perhaps the best way to appreciate these accomplishments is to consider what the world might have looked like today without both the inquisitive minds of the world’s scientists and the forward looking determination of its leaders, diplomats and negotiators who shaped the Montreal Protocol. If concerted action was not taken, by now we would be living a nightmare, with significant increases in skin cancers and cataracts, and substantial impacts on ecosystems.”
“Our actions over the past quarter century have helped usher in an Ozone-Safe Generation. This is truly worthy of celebration!” he added.
The International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer was designated by the UN General Assembly through Resolution 49/114 in 1994.
This year’s International Day is celebrated under the theme “Protecting our atmosphere for generations to come”.