International Organizations and Environmental Policy

By Robert V. Bartlett; Priya A. Kurian et al. | Go to book overview
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11
UNEP and the Montreal Protocol

David Leonard Downie

In 1974 researchers at the University of California discovered that an important family of chemicals commonly known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) posed a serious threat to the earth's protective ozone layer ( Molina and Rowland, 1974). 1 Created in 1928 to replace inflammable and noxious refrigerants, CFCs are inert, noninflammable, nontoxic, colorless, odorless, and profitably adaptable to a variety of uses. By the mid-1970s, CFCs had become the chemical of choice for propellants in aerosol sprays, coolants in refrigerators and air conditioners, solvents in the cleaning of electronic components, and blowing agents for the manufacture of flexible and rigid foam.

Because of this economic importance, establishing controls on CFCs proved extremely difficult. The absence of firm scientific consensus on the nature and seriousness of the problem, a strenuous antiregulatory campaign by corporations producing or using CFCs, concerns for the cost of unilateral regulation, and opposition by the European Community prevented effective action for many years. 2

Nevertheless, states have created a series of very important ozone-protection agreements, including the 1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, and the Amendments and Adjustments to the Protocol agreed to in London in 1990 ( UNEP/OzL.Pro.2/3) and Copenhagen in 1992 ( UNEP/OzL.Pro.4/15). These agreements form the core of the "Ozone Regime"--widely hailed as a historic development in global environmental policy and a worthy blueprint for other international environmental agreements ( Benedick, 1991b:1, 7-8).

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) played a critical role in the development of the ozone regime. Although other factors were important, UNEP significantly assisted the creation and influenced the content of the ozone regime. 3 Remarkably, there has been little detailed analysis of UNEP's

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