Opening Statement at the Second Meeting of Parties to the Montreal Protocol

by William K. Reilly
[EPA speech - June 27-29, 1990]

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. The United States of America is pleased to join other nations in participating in the Second Meeting of Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

The United States would like to thank the British Government for its gracious hospitality in hosting this historic meeting. We also want to acknowledge the leadership of Prime Minister Thatcher in advocating a vigorous and accelerated worldwide response to ozone depletion, at the London conference in March 1989, and at this meeting.

We would also like to congratulate the members of the Bureau on their recent reelection and compliment Dr. Mostafa Tolba and the UNEP secretariat for their dedication and expertise. Finally, we would like to thank the Protocol's open-ended working group, which has worked hard over the last year--in Nairobi, in Geneva, and the previous week here in London--to narrow the areas of disagreement and to make the successful conclusion of our efforts that much more achievable.

The degree of flexibility and willingness to compromise exhibited over the last year has been unprecedented. We are particularly grateful for the able leadership and guidance provided by the working group's two chairmen, Ambassador Ilkka Ristimaki of Finland and Mr. Victor Buxton of Canada.

Theodore Roosevelt, who was president of the United States during the first decade of this century, advised his children how to approach a very difficult and important task. He said, "If they ask you if you know how to accomplish it, say, "Certainly," and then get busy fast and figure out how to do it." It seems to me that it was in this spirit that the world community first tackled the job of protecting the ozone layer.

Thirty-six months ago the international community gathered in Montreal for the final stages of negotiations on a protocol to the Vienna Convention. The protocol adopted at that time seemed prudent in light of the information we then had in hand; yet its negotiators--many of whom are present here today--inserted with foresight the highly innovative provisions in Article 6 requiring the periodic review of the Protocol's control measures and other provisions on the basis of the latest scientific, environmental, economic and technical information.

The results of those four assessments--prepared over the last year--provide the international community with the information we need to act. The scientific and environmental assessments confirm our growing realization that adjustments and amendments are now urgently necessary.

The brilliant film made by the British Government and shown to us this morning made clear the important contribution of U.S. scientists as partners in the international scientific efforts on the ozone layer, including leading both the Antarctic and Arctic campaigns to study ozone depletion. Moreover, new satellites to be launched next year will provide information for the first comprehensive study of natural and human impacts on the ozone layer.

Scientific research, monitoring and satellite observations have all left no doubt that the ozone hole is not a theory but a menacing, opening window for cancers and cataracts. That window must be shut.

The technical and economic assessments assure us that further measures to limit ozone depletion are possible. The United States took its first actions to protect the ozone layer in 1978 when we banned the use of CFCs in aerosol sprays. Many cost-effective and viable substitute chemicals, products and technologies are already available. Others will become available in the near future.

On January 1, 1990, a new tax went into effect in the United States, a tax on the manufacture of CFCs. This tax exceeds in value the cost of CFCs themselves and it will rise steeply in the years ahead, raising $400 million in new revenues this year, and raising $5 billion over the next five years. This added cost of CFCs sends a powerful signal: it says bring on the substitutes fast! And it reduces the comparative economic advantage CFCs would otherwise enjoy over the more expensive substitutes. This tax on CFCs has already caused the United States to reach the agreed targets for reduction earlier than required.

The private sector throughout the world has responded to the challenge to find acceptable replacements to CFCs and halons. While by no means a simple task, the progress to date has been encouraging.

But it is now up to the community of nations to act on the information provided by the four assessment panels. It is time to consider and act on the recommendations developed by the open-ended working group. While there are still points of disagreement which will need to be worked out over the next few days, we are heartened by the widespread international consensus and spirit of cooperation we see exists.

We are particularly pleased that 59 nations have now ratified the Protocol, almost double the number that had ratified 15 months ago when we gathered last in London. Full international participation and implementation of the Protocol is essential to its effectiveness. We urge therefore all nations that have not yet done so to accede to both the Protocol and its framework agreement, the Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer.

On this note, I would like to spell out our position with respect to the major proposed adjustments and amendments. Regarding the five CFCs already controlled under the Protocol and for all other fully halogenated CFCs, the United States supports a full phaseout by the year 2000 with interim reductions of 20% in 1993 and 85% in 1997.

For halons, we support a 50% reduction by 1995 and a complete phaseout (except for limited essential uses to be defined and agreed to by the Parties) by the end of the century. The United States proposes the establishment of a Protocol working group to identify and report back to the next meeting of Parties concerning possible essential uses of halons.

We hope that the recent industry announcements of several potential halon substitutes will ease the transition away from this family of fire extinguishing agents and minimize if not eliminate the need for halons by the end of the century.

Recognizing the need to expand the list of substances controlled by the Protocol, the United States has been a leader in urging the inclusion of carbon tetrachloride and methyl chloroform. We support an 85% reduction of carbon tetrachloride by 1995 and a complete phaseout by the year 2000, with 1989 as a base year. We support a freeze on methyl chloroform by 1993, a 30% reduction by 1995 and a 50% reduction by the year 2000 with 1989 as a base year. We also support the resolution to phase out this substance as soon as possible.

Finally, we urge action by the Parties on a date certain for phasing out the HCFCs. All Parties recognize, I think, that the timely introduction of HCFCs is essential if we are to phase out CFCs on the accelerated schedule being contemplated. At the same time, we also recognize that because HCFCs do contain chlorine their use cannot be allowed to increase indiscriminately. Setting a date certain for full phaseout balances these two perspectives--it provides the certainty needed by companies to invest in making and using these compounds while limiting their time of use in order to be certain that they do not become a long-term threat to the ozone layer. We look toward a phaseout of HCFCs by no later than the year 2040.

Tightening controls on CFCs and halons, and adding new chlorinated compounds, are essential to safeguarding the ozone layer. But we must recognize that these efforts will ultimately prove ineffective unless all nations join in this undertaking. We cannot leave here on Friday with a sense of accomplishment unless we successfully resolve the issue of participation by developing countries.

The U.S. supports a program aimed at providing technical and financial assistance to developing nations which join the Protocol. Let me speak to a number of principles upon which such a program must be based.

First, it is important to us that the program must be carefully structured in order to achieve the Protocol's objectives without creating new bureaucracies. The United States agrees with the program of financial cooperation that uses:

  1. the United Nations Environment Programme to manage the clearing-house function,
  2. the World Bank to finance the needed investments, and
  3. the United Nations Development Programme to assist in feasibility and pre-investment studies.

And we are ready to provide our share of the additional funding that is needed, a share likely to be twice as large as that of the next largest contributor to the fund.

Second, we must draw attention to the conclusive scientific evidence regarding the cause of ozone depletion and the threat it poses to a vital planetary system.

Third, the program and the actions being financed through it must reasonably be expected to address the problem of ozone depletion.

Fourth, the amount of funds needed to address the problem must be limited and reasonably predictable, as has been suggested by international studies.

These four conditions are satisfied in the case of the ozone issue but may not be satisfied n other cases. Thus the program we support should not be viewed as a precedent for any other issues or set of negotiations.

We do, however, have one important issue to raise. It is very important to us, as the largest contributor to the program of financial cooperation we are about to agree on, that we be permanently represented on that program's Executive Committee. In this context, we expect to work cooperatively with every Party to achieve our goal of protecting the ozone layer.

I hope that the next three days will build on the remarkable accomplishments achieved in Montreal less than three years ago. It is sobering to note that even if we succeed in our ambitious efforts to phase out ozone depleting chemicals, CFCs and halons will continue to destroy stratospheric ozone long after we all are dead.

Thus, it is with a ened sense of urgency, informed by conclusive science, and helped by the potential availability of substitute chemicals, that I urge action by all countries now.

The Second Meeting of Parties to the Montreal Protocol convened in London, England