The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was established 35 years ago following the 1985 Vienna Convention for protection of the environment and human health against excessive amounts of harmful ultraviolet-B (UV-B, 280-315 nm) radiation reaching the Earth’s surface due to a reduced UV-B-absorbing ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol, ratified globally by all 198 Parties (countries), controls ca 100 ozone-depleting substances (ODS). These substances have been used in many applications, such as in refrigerants, air conditioners, aerosol propellants, fumigants against pests, fire extinguishers, and foam materials.
The Montreal Protocol has phased out nearly 99% of ODS, including ODS with high global warming potentials such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), thus serving a dual purpose. However, some of the replacements for ODS also have high global warming potentials, for example, the hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Several of these replacements have been added to the substances controlled by the Montreal Protocol. The HFCs are now being phased down under the Kigali Amendment. As of December 2022, 145 countries have signed the Kigali Amendment, exemplifying key additional outcomes of the Montreal Protocol, namely, that of also curbing climate warming and stimulating innovations to increase energy efficiency of cooling equipment used industrially as well as domestically.
As the concentrations of ODS decline in the upper atmosphere, the stratospheric ozone layer is projected to recover to pre-1980 levels by the middle of the 21st century, assuming full compliance with the control measures of the Montreal Protocol. However, in the coming decades, the ozone layer will be increasingly influenced by emissions of greenhouse gases and ensuing global warming. These trends are highly likely to modify the amount of UV radiation reaching the Earth's surface with implications for the effects on ecosystems and human health.
Against this background, four Panels of experts were established in 1988 to support and advise the Parties to the Montreal Protocol with up-to-date information to facilitate decisions for protecting the stratospheric ozone layer. In 1990 the four Panels were consolidated into three, the Scientific Assessment Panel, the Environmental Effects Assessment Panel, and the Technology and Economic Assessment Panel.
Every four years, each of the Panels provides their Quadrennial Assessments as well as a Synthesis Report that summarises the key findings of all the Panels. In the in-between years leading up to the quadrennial, the Panels continue to inform the Parties to the Montreal Protocol of new scientific information.