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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks on the Montreal Protocol 25th Anniversary, As Prepared

09/19/2012
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As prepared for delivery.

Thank you very much. I’m glad to be here this morning, and proud to celebrate the success we’ve seen so far in 25 years under the Montreal Protocol.

Let me start by acknowledging a loss we felt earlier this week. As many of you know, former EPA Administrator Russell Train passed away on Monday. I was lucky enough to call Russell a friend, and he was certainly an example for me as administrator of this agency.

He was only the second administrator the EPA ever had, and he helped define our mission of protecting health and the environment. Being here today is an appropriate way to celebrate his memory and the legacy he left.

In the early 1970s – years before the Montreal Protocol was first signed – Administrator Train was a strong advocate for action to reduce ozone damage. He not only acknowledged the effects that ozone depletion would have on incidence of skin cancer and other health issues; he also noted the impact it would have on climate.

He argued for broad and swift action to address the problem, and I know he was proud of the progress we’ve made since then.

As usual, he was ahead of his time. Protecting the ozone layer was not something the world – or the people in Washington DC – always agreed was a priority.

Debates raged on Capitol Hill as to whether or not taking action against ozone depletion was worthwhile. Some made the argument that hats, umbrellas and sunscreen would be protection enough for American families.

At EPA, science is the backbone of every step we take. And – despite plenty of evidence that hats do, in fact, protect us from the sun – the science proved that the challenges we faced were more significant than many originally thought, and that the solutions we needed would have to be big.

The truth was, this was – and remains – a global issue. In 1987 the United States joined a handful of nations to come together and sign this groundbreaking international treaty. By 2009, 197 countries had signed on, making the Montreal Protocol the first treaty in history to achieve universal participation.

The Montreal Protocol has been called the most successful international environmental treaty ever – and with good reason. In the 25 years since it was first signed, the entire global community has committed to stop using and producing nearly 100 of the most ozone-damaging chemicals.

This is projected to ultimately prevent 295 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and more than 22 million cases of cataracts. And with the global phase-out of 98 percent of ozone-depleting gases in consumer, industrial and agricultural products, scientists agree that the ozone layer is now on track to recover in coming decades.

One of the reasons the treaty has seen so much success is because of its flexible framework.

As science has advanced and expanded the scope of what we know, we found the potential for even more danger to the ozone layer. The treaty has allowed for stronger controls and sharper reductions to address those dangers. Over the past two and a half decades, we have moved from an initial 50 percent cut to today’s phase out of virtually all potent ozone-depleting substances.

The treaty has also become an important tool for tackling climate change, since many ozone-damaging chemicals are also potent greenhouse gases.

Thanks to the world community’s actions to strengthen the treaty with faster cuts in ozone-depleting substances, EPA estimates that the climate benefits in reducing them is equal to eliminating the emissions of one of every two American cars.

Here in America, we’ve been making great strides in helping to close the ozone hole.

We’re phasing out additional harmful substances and approving alternatives that will not further progress climate change.

Through our Significant New Alternatives Policy, or SNAP, program, we’re working with air conditioning, refrigeration, and fire suppression industries to help them transition to greener choices. The only program of its kind in the world, the SNAP program has reviewed more than 400 alternatives.

And through the GreenChill program we’re working with food retailers and encouraging them to transition to lower-impact alternatives and greener practices – like reducing leaks and using sustainable technology.

At EPA we’re also helping in the disposal of Ozone-Depleting Substances. Through our Responsible Appliance Disposal – or RAD – program, retail, utility, manufacturing and other local partners commit to recovering ozone-depleting chemicals from old refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers.

And we’re making sure Ozone-Depleting Substances don’t illegally make their way into our country by cracking down on illegal imports of products containing the substances.

All of this work is successfully helping to close the hole in the ozone. But the Montreal Protocol has been so successful because it ensures that these kinds of steps are taken here in the US and around the globe.

The remarkable progress we’ve seen is a direct result of the international partnership that has characterized this treaty. Countries all over the world have responded to the requirements of the Montreal Protocol with seriousness and national purpose.

In this arena, too, the treaty’s success is without precedent: Compliance is higher than 98 percent, and required reporting – which allows careful verification of reductions – is virtually 100 percent.

This is also a global scientific partnership, as members from across the global science community have enabled us to verify that the goals of the Montreal Protocol remain on track.

And partnerships with implementing agencies like the World Bank – whose ongoing contribution to helping bring on-the-ground success to the efforts of developing countries to meet their goals – have also been vital to our international achievements.

We will need these partnerships to continue if we want this remarkable progress to continue over the next 25 years.

We’ve accomplished so much – and we’re on the path to return to pre-1980 ozone levels. But we know there are new challenges emerging.

For example, it has become clear that, while safe for the ozone layer, some alternatives are also greenhouse gases. Over time, these gases could aggregate and erode some of the Montreal Protocol’s climate gains.

Given the treaty’s history of flexible accommodation to new science, we are confident that we’ll be able to address new challenges as effectively as the old ones.
The United States, along with our partners Canada and Mexico, have taken steps to respond to recent scientific findings by creating the North American Proposal to amend the Montreal Protocol. This proposal uses the treaty’s proven tools to help us fight climate change globally.

I have said before that – when it comes to climate change – the Montreal Protocol contains the seeds of success. Those seeds have been planted. Let’s continue to harvest them.

I look forward to continuing our work together toward our shared goals –discovering new innovations, new alternatives and new ways the Montreal Protocol can bring about a cleaner, healthier planet.

Thank you very much.