Widening the gap
ten years after the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed, it is being hailed as a success story of cooperation between policy makers, scientists, industry and non-government organisations. United Nations Environment Programme (unep) executive director Elizabeth Dowdeswell and Canadian member of parliament Clifford Lincoln, among others, spoke of it in glowing terms at the tenth anniversary colloquium at Montreal on September 13, 1997. While Lincoln called it "a model of effective partnership", Dowdeswell said that the "history of the protocol is an inspiring journey of international cooperation" between the various interest groups. For good measure, she added that there is no room for complacency, and the work must go on.
While no one would doubt the sincerity of such good offices, it does little to reassure developing countries who have yet to make headway in producing substitutes to ozone depleting substances (ods). A full decade after the protocol came into existence and seven years after the developing countries signed the dotted line, the fine print is becoming clearer. Compliance and smuggling of chlorofluorocarbons (cfcs) may be problem areas, but the development of substitutes and transfer of technology are issues inadequately addressed by the protocol.
The amendments made to the protocol in London (1990), Copenhagen (1992) and Vienna (1995), may have tempora-rily assuaged the feelings of developing nations. But, as far as the South is concerned, the situation in the long term is dissatisfactory. Not only are ods substitutes costly, but the prices of cfcs and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (hcfcs) have also gone up in the past five years (see graph: Steep rise).
Developed countries say smuggling (see Special Report : 'It comes and it goes', page 25) and non-compliance are to blame for this state of affairs. But the money sanctioned by the Multilateral Fund for projects that will help developing countries move towards the use of substitutes to ods is inadequate. Moreover, transnational corporations are either reluctant to pass on new technology, or place such a high value on it that money obtained from the Multilateral Fund is insufficient to set up similar facilities in developing countries. Even before the protocol was signed, observers had noted that the agreement was likely to promote North-South imbalance and prove costly to developing nations, which hardly consumed or produced ods at the time. This home truth is now coming home.
Measure for measure
agenda for the 9th Meeting of Parties to the Protocol (mop
-9) included measures to ensure compliance, curb smuggling of cfc
s, and phase out hcfc
s, methyl bromide, methyl chloroform, carbon tetrachloride and other cfc
substitutes with a high ozone depleting potential (odp
). A number of decisions were taken at mop
-9, but the issue of faster phase-out of hcfc
s and cfc
substitutes like hydrofluorocarbons (hfc
s), which has been opposed by the us
, was not resolved.
In a move to curb smuggling, the developed countries agreed to a total ban on sale of stockpiles of virgin cfc
s, except to meet the "basic domestic needs" of developing countries and for certain "essential uses", exempted under the protocol. The meeting also agreed to establish licensing systems for trade in new, used, reclaimed or recycled substances and for banning trade with parties that do not establish such systems themselves. The system will be based on licences issued by parties for each import and export transaction and on regular information exchange between parties. This will enable customs and police officials to track international trade in cfc
s and other controlled substances, and detect and discourage illegal sales. The system is to become effective from January 1, 2000. India has always opposed trade measures of this kind as they place tighter restrictions on exports from developing countries.
The proposals that were considered at the meeting inclu-ded control over export of equipment containing cfc
s to signatory countries and improving customs codes to facilitate accurate identification of controlled substances. Together, these new trade provisions would help prevent illegal traffic in controlled substances. Proposals for prohibiting import of newly produced ods
from parties that are not complying with the protocol and for controlling trade in methyl bromide with non-parties were also considered. The issue of new, unlisted substances that have lower but significant odp
entering the market was also raised.
A number of "essential-use exemptions" were considered to allow certain parties to use small but vital quantities of parti-cular chemicals for medical, research, and other scientific purposes. The matter of non-compliance by Latvia, Lithuania, and the Russian Federation could not be resolved. Russia has seven factories which are producing cfc
s illegally. It had asked for us
$40-50 million to destroy these facilities, re-employ the wor-kers and set up factories to produce substitutes. This was watered down by the un
$ 27 million. But, donor countries being reluctant, only us
$ 15.5 million have been pledged so far by four countries. If the rest of the amount cannot be raised, these pledges, too, will lapse. Decisions and revisions
The European Commission (ec
) and Switzerland had called for an accelerated phase-out schedule for hcfc
s and for the introduction of production controls. They had proposed bringing forward the deadline for phasing out hcfc
use for maintenance and servicing to 2008. The ec
tried to persuade the us
to support restrictions on the use of hcfc
substitutes earlier than 2030. But the us
maintained its stand, opposing faster phase-out of hcfc
s and their substitutes. The ec
and Switzerland, however, urged that the issue be taken up at a future meeting.
Both developed countries and developing nations agreed to change their targets for phase-out for methyl bromide, widely used as a soil fumigant or pesticide. Canada, the us
and the European Union had submitted proposals requiring deve-loped countries to phase-out methyl bromide - production of which has touched 70,000 tonnes per year - by 2001, as against the previous target of 2010.The us
and Canada had made a similar proposal at the 15th meeting of the Open Ended Working Group of the protocol at Nairobi in June 1997, but were opposed by the group of 77 developing countries (g
-77). The g
-77 said that a date could be fixed only after demonstration projects in their countries had been completed.
After amendments, the phase-out of methyl bromide by developed countries, previously set at 2010, has been brought forward to 2005. Interim reductions of 25 per cent have to be made by 1999, 50 per cent by 2001, and 70 per cent by 2003. However, the deadlines will be weakened by a proviso allowing them to continue using the chemical for "critical agricultural use". The interim reduction schedule will be reviewed in 2003.
Developing countries were previously only committed to freezing methyl bromide by 2002 at the 1995-98 average level, but did not have a deadline to begin phase-out. At mop
-9, they agreed to a 20 per cent reduction on a four-year average - with 1995-98 as the base years - for calculating the phase-out. The Multilateral Fund would make available us
$25 million per year in 1998 and 1999 for activities relating to the phase-out. This would be in addition to the us
$10 million agreed last year for funding demonstration projects to test the feasibility of methyl bromide alternatives. A year after this part of the agreement comes into force, parties will ban trade in methyl bromide with non-parties. India's stake
Like other developing countries, which were insignificant consu-mers of cfc
s till the 1980s, India is a signatory under Article 5 of the protocol. Article 5 allows countries whose annual per capita consumption of ods
is less that 0.3 kg a time lag of 10 years to implement phase out use of such substances. In the past 10 years India, which signed the protocol in 1992, has become the seventh largest consumer of cfc
s in the world (see graphs
: Shared capacities and Changing consumption patterns). Its total consumption of ods
in 1991 was estimated to be 10,300 metric tonnes (mt), while the per capita consumption was a mere 10 grammes. By 1995, though overall consumption had increased to approximately 17,000 mt, per capita consumption had remained stable. If unchecked, it is estimated that demand for ods
in India may rise to 184,200 mt by 2010.
Of the eight types of substances listed in the Montreal Protocol under five annexures, India chiefly consumes those listed in Annexure A (cfc
-113, Halon 1211, Halon 1301) and Annexure B (carbon tetrachloride, ctc
, and methyl chloroform, mcf
). There are five industrial sectors which consume cfc
s and related chemicals, led by solvents processing, and refrigeration and air-conditioning (rac
). Foams, aerosols and fire extinguishers make up the rest ( see graph
: Different stakes). Although the solvents sector uses the most ods
, it is the rac
sector which has seen the biggest growth and is the largest consumer of cfc
s. Many companies in this sector are small-scale and account for about two-thirds of the total consumption of ods
. A change-over to cfc
substitutes is all the more difficult for these companies, since new techno-logy is steeply priced.
India proposed at mop
-9 that the baseline for phase-out of ods
by Article 5 countries should be the average of the annual calculated level of production in 1995-97 (inclusive), or the set level of consumption of 0.3 kg per capita, whichever is lower, for Annexure A substances; and the average of the annual calculated level of production for 1998-2000 (inclusive), or the calculated level of consumption of 0.2 kg per capita, whichever is lower, for Annexure B substances.
Speaking at mop-9,
Union minister for environment and forests Saifuddin Soz regretted that the guidelines for funding projects for closure of production facilities of ods
are taking too long. He said that lack of finance was a major concern, and is preventing enterprises from changing over to environment-friendly technologies. He lamented that despite the 1990 London Amendment, transfer of technology has not come about.
He reiterated that funds should either be provided to convert ods
technology to non- ods
technology, or allow ods
to be used for servicing of equipment so that there is no financial burden on developing countries. "It will be unfortunate," he noted, "if in order to protect the ozone layer thousands of small entrepreneurs in a developing country go out of business."
He drew attention at the same time to efforts made by India for processing and implementation of phase-out projects. According to figures available with the ozone cell under the ministry of environment and forests, India has received us
$43 million to cover 138 projects and activities as of June 1997. Of this, us
$30 million have been disbursed to the industry to substitute cfc
s, halons -- compounds of bromine -- and other ods
. In mid-August, the fund reportedly approved an additional assistance of about us
$10 million (Rs 36 crore). This includes seven projects by seven companies to phase out cfc
s in the foam sector, amounting to us
$92,500 (Rs 3.3 crore).
The government continues to be optimistic about the possibility of achieving cfc
phase-out within the time-frame specified in the protocol. As an Article 5 signatory, India is committed to limiting cfc
production after the year 2000 and phasing it out completely by 2010. "The first obligation on India, and all other developing countries, is to achieve a freeze in consumption of cfc
s in the twelve-month period starting July 1999, at the level of the average consumption of cfc
s in 1996-97," according to the director of the ozone cell, Anil Agarwal.
India's total licensed cfc
production capacity is about 32,000 tonnes. There are eight refrigerator manufacturers in the country with a combined production capacity of over 5 million refrigerators and 6 million compressors annually. Though production has increased 18 per cent per year since 1991, overall capacity utilisation was only 40 per cent in 1994. After liberalisation, demand for domestic refrigerators has increased and is expected to grow by 20 per cent over the next five years. The approximate growth in production could be around 30 lakh refrigerators in 1998-99, 35 lakh in 1999-2000 and 80 lakh by 2004-2005. The total number of domestic refrigerators produced is expected to cross 5.8 million units by the year 2000 and 11.6 million units by 2004-05.
At current growth rates, taking the upper limit, India will be using about 25,000 mt of cfc
s and halons per year by the end of the century. In other words, India will have used -- in a decade -- less than two-thirds of the cfc
s and halons used by the us
in 1985 alone ( see graph
: The share of the burden). Clearly, any restrictions on export of these substances would be against India's interests.
The road ahead
Montreal Protocol is now hailed as an "extraordinary environmental success"and has come to be regarded as a "model-setting, green, global agreement". A recent study commissioned by Environment Canada which was tabled at mop
-9 concludes that the health and financial benefits of the protocol far outweigh its costs. It estimates that the economic benefits of the agreement, signed by 163 countries, would amount to us
$330 billion by 2060.
The recent reports of the Expert Assessment Panels indicate that it has gone some way in effectively curtailing ozone depletion. Just prior to the 1987 agreement, industries in 50 countries around the world were pumping out 984,327 odp
-weighted mt (odp
is the ozone depleting potential of a substance compared to the potential of a similar mass of cfc
-11) of substances. In 10 years, this production has been reduced by over 71 per cent (283,136 odp
-weighted mt). Consumption in the same period dropped by about 75 per cent from 1,159,070 odp
-weighted mt in 1986 to 282,090 odp
-weighted mt in 1995.
The 1990 amendments to the protocol established the Multilateral Fund to assist developing countries in reducing and ultimately eliminating use of ods
. This was pivotal in securing ratification by the developing nations. Since its establishment, the Multilateral Fund has allocated us
$570 million for projects in over 100 countries. China is the largest recipient, and India the second largest -- having received approximately us
$ 40 million, according to the us
general accounting office's testimony to the sub-committee on health and environment (reported by Friends of the Earth, Canada). This investment was supposed to phase out about 84,000 odp
-weighted mt of ods
, or about 40 per cent of the estimated consumption in Article 5 countries. But it was reported that, as of December 31, 1996 only 20,487 odp
-weighted mt has actually been phased out. This delay is attributed to time lags between project approvals and start-up and project completion time.
But the amount sanctioned by the Multilateral Fund is insufficient. According to estimates, India alone would require around us
$1 billion for conversion projects. And if one determines who is paying for this phase-out, the protocol again leaves a lot to be desired. It strengthens a global governance system where the rich and poor of the world are being asked to share the cost, and the responsibility, for setting right a global environmental problem caused by the rich. The bottomline remains that -- its legal precedents notwithstanding -- the Montreal Protocol is a weak treaty. Distorting reality
The proposal made at the Nairobi meet (also put up at mop
-9) to allow use of ods
as feedstock in developed countries, besides being iniquitous, raises the spectre of continued emissions in Article 5 countries. The definition of process agents by the Technology and Economic Assessment Panel (teap
) was wide in legal as well as practical terms. The Indian, Swedish and the eu
representatives at the meeting had raised doubts about this recommendation, suggesting that further consultations were needed.
The compromise reached in Nairobi was a two-year extension to treat process agents as fixed stock. The teap
was asked to put in a report by 1999. The proposing countries conveniently intend to escape the burden of conversion projects (which will largely require technology imports from Japan) to phase out ctc
-- two widely used solvents. They want to run their own ctc
-emitting facilities by claiming that they are foolproof against leakages. But no such guarantees can be made in dealing with hazardous chemicals.
By seeking to treat ctc
as feedstock, the proposing countries will effectively discourage conversion projects in developing countries and hold back on resource transfers. The chemical processing factories are concentrated in India and China. Industry in the two countries will stand to gain most from resource transfers for conversion technology. Several projects for ctc
alternatives have been identified in India with the help of Japan and the industry is keen on going ahead.
The protocol also sets a dangerous precedent by sanctioning and promoting the use of hfc
s, especially hfc
-134a, considered a 'safe' alternative to cfc
s. Recent estimates indicate that the global hfc
market could be around 1.35 million tonnes a year by 2040 -- equivalent to 15 per cent of current fossil fuel emissions. A study by Atlantic Consultants of the uk
reveals that hfc
-134a leakage from air-conditioners installed in automobiles sold in 1995 in Western Europe and Japan will generate the co
2 equivalent of five and 10 new power plants, respectively. Moreover, as the 1996 unep
scientific assessment says, hfc
-134a forms trifluoro-acetic acid -- a persistent toxin which cannot be metabolised by plants and animals.
Given these environmental concerns, hfc
s should at least be referred to as 'transitional substances'. hfc
s do not contribute to ozone depletion, and the protocol does not have a mandate to legally control them. But in encouraging their use it shares the responsibility for their ultimate impact on the environment. Needed: equitable options
The test of an agreement is not in its provisions alone. Equity aspects are equally important in engendering compliance and promoting global environmental democracy.
The fact is that the principal contributors to the growing hole in the ozone layer are rallying together to reduce their commitments to the Multilateral Fund. To justify the protocol, commentators and politicians in the West have argued that it is based on the 'polluter pays principle'. Nothing could be further from the truth. In this case, the 'polluter pays principle' would have fixed a liability on each party, reflecting a nation's responsibility in damaging the atmosphere and making transfer of funds and technology mandatory.
Scientists say that even if all countries implement the protocol, the ozone layer will not attain its pre-1970 level before 2050. Global warming and ozone layer depletion are not historical accidents but the net effect of unsustainable consumption of the world's resources and interference with the planet's ecology by developed nations. The threat can only be met through cooperation and an equitable management system, wherein the North accepts structural adjustments in its economy to help the world get back into shape.