A critical review of the successful CFC phase-out versus the delayed methyl bromide phase-out in the Montreal Protocol

Original Paper

Abstract

The Montreal Protocol is often described as an international environmental agreement par excellence. After all, it successfully led to the phase-out of almost 95% of all chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) use. A critical review of the Protocol’s history, however, suggests that its successes are deeply entrenched in the economic opportunities that were made available to phase out CFCs. The Montreal Protocol, in other words, was a “best-case scenario” for CFC producers. This may be problematic for policymakers, ecological modernization practitioners, and other scholars who look to the Montreal Protocol for guidance in phasing out other global environmentally harmful substances and practices that are not as “economically efficient.” The shift to delay the phasing out of methyl bromide (MeBr) in the Protocol, an ozone-depleting substance used to this day primarily in strawberry and tomato production, demonstrates how even this most successful of international environmental agreements can become subject to significant setbacks when economic gains and scientific evidence are not obvious to the global powers. Furthermore, changes in what constitutes a viable exemption to the phase-out of CFCs versus MeBr marks a shift away from concern for the general functioning/welfare of society, and toward concern for the market performance of specific individuals. This shift runs parallel to a lack in economic incentives to phase out MeBr in the United States. The article demonstrates how civil society representation in ozone politics is largely dominated by industry interests, especially when scientific uncertainty is high.

Keywords

Montreal Protocol CFCs Critical use exemptions Ecological modernization Global civil society Individualism Methyl bromide Neoliberalism 

Abbreviations

CFCs

Chlorofluorocarbons

CUE

Critical use exemption

EPA

United States Environmental Protection Agency

HCFCs

Hydrochlorofluorocarbons

MBTOC

Methyl bromide Technical Options Committee

MeBr

Methyl bromide

MOP

Meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol

NASA

U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NGO

Non-governmental organization

ODS

Ozone-depleting substance

ODP

Ozone-depleting potential

TEAP

Technology and Economics Assessment Panel

UNEP

United Nations Environmental Programme

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thanks are due to Wally Goldfrank, Ronnie Lipschutz, E. Melanie DuPuis, Ben Crow, John Borrego, Harro van Asselt, and two anonymous referees for their exceptional advice on the preparation of this manuscript. Funding for this research was provided by the University of California STEPS Institute for Innovation in Environmental Research, the University of California Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, the University of California Pacific Rim Research Program, and the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyBoston CollegeChestnut HillUSA

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