Happy 25th birthday to the “perhaps the single most successful environmental agreement to date”! On 16 September 1987, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed, and rapidly became the symbol of what global cooperation on environmental issues could achieve. But as symbols come to represent particular possibilities and narratives in world politics, they also legitimate and justify these, and the Montreal Protocol is no exception. Success on addressing ozone depletion has been seen to hold lessons – then and now – for art and craft of global environmental politics, with climate change being one of the best examples of this.
In a post to mark this anniversary, I reflect on some of these longer legacies and lessons of the Montreal model for the conduct and history of international climate politics, which has unfolded in the shadow of Montreal’s success – for better or worse. The two paragraphs are below, and you can find the full version at either the Politics in Spires or Responding to Climate Change sites:
“In June, the international environmental community gathered at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development set for hard-fought negotiations on sustainable development. This occurred with the backdrop of decades of questionable progress on global environmental issues like deforestation, biodiversity and climate change.
“Old hands lamented the missed opportunities and false dawns in the years since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Rio+20 needed to be a turning point — seen as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to find a new paradigm for sustainable development and kickstart a transition towards ‘green growth’. But while Rio+20 marked the marquee environmental summit of 2012, another much quieter – and perhaps more significant – anniversary takes place in a few days’ time, one that does much to tell us about the environmental malaise that we find ourselves in.”