Problems of Ozone Depletion!
At the beginning of the problem definition process, there was scientific uncertainty about the gravity of the ozone depletion problem. The definition process reduced this uncertainty by accomplishing three major tasks: it confirmed that ozone depletion was occurring; it confirmed the connection between the use of CFCs and halons and the damage to the ozone layer; and it estimated the extent and rate of depletion.
The ecological epistemic community, which played a major role in defining the problem, was a transnational one. It was made up of atmospheric scientists and policy makers, including officials of UNEP, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES).
The epistemic community used a variety of channels to affect the decision-making process. In the process of drafting documents and reports, gathering data, organizing scientific panels and lobbying delegates, it was able to substantially define the issue and modify the agenda for the negotiations.
Significant components of the epistemic community participated in UNEP’s Coordinating Committee on the Ozone Layer, in which they were able to share information.
The bargaining process over the ozone protection regime actually began before the issue was clearly defined. In the beginning, the Third World countries played a minor role in the negotiations, primarily because they did not have clearly defined interests. However, nations with economic interests, as well as industries involved in CFC production, did have a clear understanding of the interests as stake.
Nations brought dissimilar viewpoints to the negotiations. Some favored a global ban on CFCs 11 and 12 in aerosols (except for essential purposes) and a limit on CFC emissions in non-aerosol uses.
The United States, which accounted for 30 per cent of worldwide production, was prepared to be the lead state. However, other nations were reluctant to undertake such sweeping actions until they felt the scientific evidence against CFCs was compelling. The latter group would have been satisfied with a framework convention.
The European Community accounted for 45 per cent of world CFC output, and by the mid-1980s it was exporting a third of its production to developing states. Because of the major producer states’ interests in continuing production, the EC member-states constituted a veto coalition.
Since participation of these states was necessary for a strong ozone protection regime, their cooperation was important. The large developing states, such as India, China, Indonesia, Brazil and Mexico, also appear to have had some potential as a veto coalition. Their bargaining leverage was based not on their consumption of CFCs but on their potential as producer and consumers of CFCs.
These countries were already producing on a small scale; although they were providing less than 5 per cent of the world’s CFC production, their production was increasing by 7 to 10 per cent each year. However, in the negotiations on the Vienna Convention, these states did not take advantage of their veto power. At this stage, no Third World country played an active role.
The Toronto Group took the lead, pushing for simultaneous negotiation of a framework convention and associated protocols that would obligate states to reduce CFC use. However, the veto coalition would not support the negotiation of regulatory protocols, taking the position that the state of scientific knowledge was insufficient to support such a protocol.
The lead state remained on the offensive, proposing a worldwide ban on non-essential uses of CFCs in spray cans in 1983. But, the veto coalition offered a counter-proposal: total CFC production by 30 per cent beyond the anticipated 1985 level.
Over a three-year period, there were eight negotiating sessions, but the groups failed to achieve consensus on the ozone issue. In 1985, after three years of negotiation, the United States began to define ozone depletion as an urgent issue, but still the veto coalition would not yield. As a result, the parties had to be satisfied with the Vienna Convention, which was a framework convention.
The Montreal Protocol began the process of strengthening the ozone layer protection regime. Because of new findings, most nations accepted the idea of some controls. However, the extent and the timing of the controls were contentious issues.
Lead states argued for a freeze, followed by a gradual reduction in the production of ozone-depleting substances over a period of 10 to 14 years, whereas the veto coalition wanted a production cap. The Toronto Group still pressed for a cut, but as a compromise its members suggested a 50 per cent cut. As late as April 1987, the EC insisted it would agree to a reduction of no more than 20 per cent, but at the Montreal Conference later that year the EC representative agreed to a 50 per cent reduction.
Developing countries successfully pressed for some concessions; they obtained a derogation that would allow them to increase their CFC use for the first decade of the agreement. They were also to receive technical assistance as well as information and advice on CFC recycling and conservation. The fear was that without some concessions Third World countries would set up their own CFC production plants.
But these concessions did not address all of the developing countries’ major concerns regarding the evolving regime. Of particular concern was the fact that there were no provisions for a fund to help them make the switch to CFC substitutes. The fund was not established because the United States, Japan and the EC countries opposed it.
Because there was no provision for financial assistance, three major developing countries—China, India and Brazil—refused to sign the protocol. These were important holdouts, because they had the potential to become major producers and consumers of CFCs. They refused to participate in the regime until the industrialized countries agreed to provide financial and technological assistance. Although, UNEP supported them in their calls for the establishment of the fund.
Scientific revelations about ozone depletion continued to unfold, and they spurred the regime strengthening process. The Montreal Protocol came into force on January 1, 1989, and the negotiations on its amendment began promptly.
At a meeting to amend the protocol in Helsinki in May 1989, the veto coalition began to shift its position dramatically. The EC members were among 80 nations voting for a complete CFC phase out by the year 2000.
At the London meeting, in June 1990, a new coalition of 13 industrialized states pushed for a 1997 deadline for the final elimination of CFCs. However, the four leading CFC-producing nations—the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Italy—joined by the Soviet Union, offered an alternate phase out date of the year 2000.
The push by some industrialized countries for a 1997 deadline caused the United States to change from a lead to a veto role. This deadline has been extended by year 2010, but there is little hope of its complete implementation.
Developing countries were usually at a disadvantage with respect to the size and make-up of their delegation. A developing country was likely to be represented by a single generalist, whereas the industrialized countries were more likely to have a team of specialists. Countries that had a strong economic interest in the process were usually represented by large delegations.
But, most delegations fell between these two extremes. They had, on average, two to four members, usually representing scientific, industrial, economic, legal and political disciplines. The delegations that had specialists had an advantage since these people usually had special knowledge of, or experience regarding, the ozone issue.
The potential for further regime transformation still exists. With the developing countries now on board, the regime can be further strengthened by speeding up the time table for phase out. There is thus need for greater cooperation between developed and developing nations in field of ozone layer protection.