Not so long ago, humanity stood on the brink of a self-inflicted catastrophe. Our use of ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) had torn a hole in the ozone layer that protects us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.
But we tackled this challenge. Thirty years ago, the international community signed the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. Under its Montreal Protocol, the world united to slash the production and consumption of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances.
Together, we have succeeded in putting the stratospheric ozone layer on the road to recovery by the middle of this century. As a result, up to 2 million cases of skin cancer may be prevented each year, along with even more avoided cases of eye cataracts.
As we look forward to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the effort by governments later this year in Paris to forge a new, collective path forward on climate change, the Montreal Protocol’s success should inspire us. It shows what we are capable of when nations act together on a global challenge.
But the work of the Montreal Protocol is not yet done. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) have been used as replacements for many ozone-depleting substances. While they do not deplete the ozone layer, they are extremely potent greenhouse gases and will contribute a great deal of warming to our already overheated planet in the coming decades unless we act now.
Many countries are now considering using the Montreal Protocol regime to phase down HFCs. A political commitment to managing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol could be one of the biggest climate change wins in the lead-up to the Paris climate conference. It will also be another strong victory for multilateral efforts to safeguard our environment. On this International Day, let us ensure that we protect our climate the way we have preserved the ozone layer.