Back in May 2009, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University and Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency, presented a hypothetical projection (codenamed “World Avoided”) of the future state of the ozone layer had the Montreal Protocol (on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer) not come into force to regulate and control the use of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) globally. Using computer model predictions, the results were startling – by year 2064, nearly two-thirds of the Earth’s ozone layer would have been depleted and average ultraviolet (UV) radiation levels on the Earth’s surface would have increased dramatically (approximately three-fold at mid-latitudes), leading to a rise in skin cancer and eye cataract rates, global temperature fluctuations and potentially detrimental effects on ecosystems and the natural environment.
Such has been the importance of the 1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and its subsequent Montreal Protocol, where nations came together to mitigate a global environmental crisis in response to the discovery of an ozone “hole” in the 1970s and its scientifically-backed connection to anthropogenic activities involving the use of halocarbon substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and halons. The aim of the Montreal Protocol was direct and clear – to regulate, control and eventually phase out the production, consumption and use of ODS in all relevant industrial sectors worldwide based on an agreed ODS phase-out timetable for developed and developing countries respectively. To facilitate this objective, the Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund (MLF) was established to provide the necessary assistance and support for developing countries to achieve compliance.
Montreal Protocol in Malaysia – HCFC Phase-Out Management Plan (HPMP) Stage-II
As an early ratifier of the Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol (achieving ratification in August 1989), Malaysia has had a long history of Montreal Protocol implementation activities in the country, beginning with the National ODS Country Programme 1992 – 2001 (Phase 1), to the National CFC Phase-Out Plan (NCFCP) 2002 – 2010 (Phase 2), and the hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) Phase-Out Management Plan (HPMP) Stage-I 2012 – 2016. Now in Stage-II of its HPMP programme (2017 – 2021), Malaysia is currently focusing its efforts on building an enabling environment primarily within the polyurethane (PU) foam manufacturing and refrigeration and air-conditioning (RAC) sectors to support their transition towards the use of non-ODS substances within their respective processes and applications, in view of Malaysia’s existing regulatory enforcement measures and commitment to phase out 97.5% of HCFC consumption by 2030 and impose a total ban by 2040.
Montreal Protocol activities in Malaysia are led by the Department of Environment’s National Ozone Unit (NOU), which is supported by the MLF and UNDP and oversees implementation of ODS phase-out programmes as well as the nation’s overall compliance to the Protocol. Under the PU foam sector, support is given to local SMEs to replace the use of HCFC in PU foam manufacturing processes with non-ODS alternatives through the provision of technical and logistical assistance to facilitate a smooth transition. As for the RAC sector, emphasis is placed on increasing the capacities of local servicing technicians especially in alternative refrigerants handling and management skills through the e-Certification Service Technician Programme (eCSTP) run by designated Authorised Training Centres (ATCs) nationwide. Thus far, the NOU’s sustained efforts have been commendable, culminating in its receiving the 2018 UN Malaysia Award for Sustainability in recognition of its critical role in ozone protection work, in addition to helping Malaysia exceed its HCFC phase-out target in Stage-I and remain on track to achieve its Stage-II target of 49.94% cumulative reduction in HCFC consumption against the baseline by the end of 2021.
Success in Solidarity
Implementation of the Montreal Protocol has thus far shown encouraging results, where 98.6% of ODS consumption has been phased out globally, equivalent to 1.75 million Ozone Depleting Potential (ODP) tonnes. Most importantly, the ozone layer has been showing signs of recovery in the last two decades and is projected to return to 1980 baseline levels by year 2050. The positive implications of this are also far-reaching on a socioeconomic front, where approximately 2 million cases of skin cancer are expected to be prevented each year by 2030 and roughly USD460 billion worth of damages to agriculture, fisheries and materials averted based on cumulative estimates from 1987 to 2060. In addition, the Protocol has also contributed significantly to global climate change mitigation efforts, reducing an estimated 135 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions from 1990 – 2010.
As the first international environmental treaties to achieve universal ratification, the Vienna Convention and its Montreal Protocol – often considered among the most successful international environmental agreements to date – are true testaments of how even complex transboundary crises can be respectably managed when the international community sets aside its differences for a common and collective good. And on this World Ozone Day 2020, we not only celebrate 35 fruitful years of the 1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, but also the global solidarity it represents – something we could all use a little bit more of, as we wade through the turbulent times COVID-19 has presented us with.