THE NINTH MEETING OF THE PARTIES TO THE MONTREAL PROTOCOL

  • Simon Upton
Environment

MONTREAL, CANADA, 15-17 SEPTEMBER 1997

I would like to start by making a few comments on the present work of the Montreal Protocol, its Open ended Working Group, and the Ninth Meeting of the Parties.

One of the key issues considered at this meeting has been the strengthening of controls on methyl bromide. Developed countries have been united in their support for acceleration of the phase-out date from 2010, and the revision of interim reductions in consumption of this substance. For its part, New Zealand is able to support interim cuts in 2001 of between 60%-75%, with complete phase-out by 2005. As we have previously stated, this is contingent upon continued provision for the unconditional Quarantine and Pre-shipment exemption, and on agreement on a suitably rigorous "critical uses" exemption.

We believe however that, to complete the package, agreement must also be reached on a phase-out schedule for developing countries' methyl bromide use. We would once again defer to the excellent work of the TEAP whose conclusions suggest that it is technically and economically feasible for developing countries to take such steps. We recognise our commitments under the Protocol to assist developing countries to move away from methyl bromide technologies, and to assist these countries in complying with the final phase-out date agreed to by the Parties. We also believe that retention of the QPS exemption coupled with a suitably rigorous "critical uses" definition should go a long way toward allaying fears over food security and economic livelihoods.

New Zealand appreciates efforts under way to combat illegal trade, and the review of procedures, and treatment of non-compliance. In relation to the former, we support the introduction of licensing systems to ensure better tracking and verification of bona fide trade in ozone depleting substances although we would support national flexibility in implementing licensing systems that work for particular national circumstances We also support the intention behind efforts to review the current non-compliance regime

But we're not just here to talk about methyl bromide. We are also here to celebrate and reflect on the achievements of all Parties to the Protocol since its negotiation ten years ago. Why has the Montreal Protocol been a success? Why are we in a position to celebrate rather than lament the achievements of the Protocol? I believe that the Protocol holds valuable lessons that can be effectively applied to other multilateral environmental agreements on issues which demand global solutions.

We need to distinguish between problems that occur globally, and problems that demand global solutions. The two are not always linked. Many problems that occur globally are amenable to local action regardless of what other countries do.. Biodiversity measures and sustainable forestry initiatives are examples of responses that do not rely absolutely on co-ordinated global action for any progress to be made at all. But when environmental damage is not contained within national borders, then truly global co-ordinated solutions make sense. Ozone depletion is the obvious example of a global problem requiring fully global solutions.

Notwithstanding the heightened relevance of ozone depletion to New Zealand and other countries in the Southern Hemisphere, it didn't matter how quickly New Zealand acted to phase out its use of ozone depleting chemicals: our health and economic well-being stood to be jeopardised in the absence of global cooperation. Fortunately, the Montreal Protocol is a shining example of such global cooperation.

Another global environmental problem that is at the forefront of all Government's minds at the present time is climate change. Like ozone depletion, climate change falls into that second category of problems; it requires global solutions. I would like to reflect briefly on a few of the useful lessons learnt in the Montreal Protocol context, and urge Parties to consider whether some of these lessons might be equally applicable in other contexts such as climate change.

The success of the Montreal Protocol can be attributed to the establishment of a coherent framework for addressing the problem. Elements of this framework include:

First, the development of an effective interface between science and policy. We have had the advantage of scientific advice of the highest quality, which has formed the foundation for informed and rational decisions at the policy making level. In this context, I would like to emphasise my appreciation for the work of the Montreal Protocol Technology and Economic Assessment Panel and its Committees. This has enabled the Montreal Protocol process to evolve and mature appropriately into a more technically focussed, and less politicised process.

Second, commitments have been realistic. As reflected by most countries' results to date, commitments under the Protocol have been set at achievable levels taking into account assessments of environmental effects, as well as the economic and technical feasibility of further commitments. Controls have then been strengthened through further adjustments and amendments to the Protocol.

Third, Parties have been given national flexibility in how they will go about their Protocol commitments. The Protocol does not, and indeed should not, require that particular policies or measures be undertaken by the Parties to meet their commitments. This has allowed countries to achieve their commitments in a manner which suits their particular national circumstance, for example by retrofitting or retiring capital stock once investment in old technologies has been recouped.

Fourth, the ozone regime has gained almost universal acceptance, with around 170 countries now Parties to the Montreal Protocol. As I highlighted before, this universality is essential in addressing the global problem of ozone depletion.

Finally, notwithstanding differences in ability and responsibility, the Montreal Protocol has relied on the successful cooperation between developed and developing countries. Developed countries have shown their willingness to show the lead in addressing this issue. Developing countries have also come to the Party: subject to provision of adequate financial and technical resources, they have also committed themselves to control their consumption and production of ozone depleting substances within given timeframes.

I believe these vital elements of the Montreal Protocol framework warrant careful consideration in the context of other multilateral environmental agreements. In particular, I believe that a timely reflection on the lessons learnt under the Montreal Protocol may provide useful guidance in efforts currently under way to strengthen commitments in respect of climate change in the Berlin Mandate process.

While the problems of ozone depletion and climate change share certain characteristics (such as the global nature of the problem, the requirement for global solutions and even some of the chemicals being addressed), I do not seek to suggest that the solution to climate change is as obvious as it has been in case of ozone depletion. Clearly it is not. Nor are the implications for action, which are far more wide-ranging in the climate change context. There the impact of remedial actions will be felt across all sectors of the economy, and by consumers and producers alike. I would simply reiterate the potential value of lessons learnt under the Montreal Protocol regime.