Montreal 1987

The U.S drive for agreement in Montreal was briefly sidetracked in late May by intra-Administration debate that led to a stunning domestic debacle. The secretary of the interior, Donald Hodel, seriously undermined U.S. negotiators by calling for a personal protection campaign (hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen) in lieu of international regulations.97 The controversy, though embarrassing, was short-lived and Tolba was able to stop the EU from taking advantage of the gaffe to dilute the negotiating text.98 Otherwise, the summer was a period of moving forward on ozone depletion: The EU reached internal consensus around the need for a freeze and reduction of CFC emissions; the Japanese got on board as well; the discord in the United States passed without further damage to the U.S. negotiating position; and Congress and the NGO community kept the pressure on the United States to take strong international action.99 The South was ignored.100 The Friends of Tolba continued to meet and hammer out compromises.

At Montreal in September 1987, fifty-seven states convened, with thirty-seven from the South, to realize the fruits of the summer labor and finalize the details of the protocol.101 Even given the work of the three previous official negotiating sessions and the work of the informal Friends of Tolba meetings, there remained a great deal of bargaining left to do. The final list of chemicals to be controlled, as well as the schedule for reduction had yet to be fully decided. In addition, the details of how voting would take place and how the protocol would come into force were still up in the air.

The Montreal negotiations remained a mostly North-only affair, though Southern states began to participate in significant numbers for the first time—signaling the initial instability in the North-only rule. While both Tolba and Benedick mention the hard work and contribution of Southern negotiators at Montreal (and their role should, of course, not be downplayed), it is clear that the South was being presented with a mostly fait accompli. The North-only negotiations had too much momentum. The new Southern participants (including a crucial participant—China) were mainly interested in securing continued access to CFCs, and development concerns remained a secondary concern at Montreal.

The United States remained focused on North-only negotiations and set its sights on Japan and the Soviet Union in addition to the EU.102 The United States still considered the ozone depletion problem to be a Northern issue and signaled this understanding through a twelfth-hour proposal of a 90 percent ratification rule. This would require states representing 90 percent of the production of CFCs to ratify the protocol before it would enter into force. A spokesman for the EPA explained the rationale for the position, stating, "[W]e're looking for an effective agreement involving as many nations as possible."103 However, it is clear that the nations that the United States wanted to involve were Northern states, for, "with a 90 percent threshold, [all four large producers] would have to approve the treaty."104 The United States "wanted the high percentage for entry into force to encourage the major CFC producers to comply with the protocol."105 With the South producing less than 10 percent of the CFCs as a group, the United States was clearly not directing this measure at Southern participation.

Montreal was the first negotiating session at which the international community took specific notice of Southern concerns. However, while the United States still focused squarely on disputes with the EU, the possible demands of the South were an afterthought. For as Benedick tellingly observed, the demands of the South heading into the final MP negotiating session (Montreal itself) "were a totally unknown quantity."106 While he acknowledged that South-North issues were a subject of debate throughout the negotiations, it was not until Montreal that specific details were discussed.107

The United States and EU pushed on at Montreal, and after much "horse trading," as Benedick has called it, and Herculean efforts by the negotiators and Tolba himself, the issues still in contention were resolved and the Montreal Protocol was signed. The two sides reached compromise on the identity and quantity of the chemicals to be controlled, the timing of controls, and bureaucratic matters of voting and trade restrictions. The agreement that came to define one of the most successful international environmental regimes was signed on September 16, 1987.

The protocol itself contained measures regulating emissions reductions and mandating periodic reassessment. The process of eliminating CFCs had begun in earnest. In terms of reductions, the MP called for an immediate freeze on specific CFCs with scheduled reductions culminating in a cutback of 50 percent. The bargain enshrined the "precautionary principle"—taking action before scientific certainty. However, as Parsons illuminates, the 50 percent solution was politics, not science. If the scientists were right about CFCs and ozone depletion, then 50 percent was too little, if they were wrong, then 50 percent was a serious overreaction.108 Following in the footsteps of the precedent set in the Vienna Convention, there are provisions in the MP for periodic reassessment and amendment of the protocol should it become necessary. The MP would enter into force when states representing two-thirds of the world's production (a compromise down from U.S.-proposed 90 pecent) ratified the agreement.

The U.S. story to this point is a fairly monotonous one. Excepting the period of disarray in May-June 1987, the United States stuck with the negotiating position formulated in November 1986. Constantly pushed by the threat of unilateral congressional action, NGO pressure, scientific knowledge, and industry fears of unilateral action, the United States consistently pushed for a freeze on CFCs to be followed by a gradual phase-out. Throughout this time, the United States remained concerned with the EU and other Northern actors and gave little thought/attention to the South. Throughout this period, the United States talked globally and acted North-only because the United States understood that the global response to ozone depletion only required Northern participation.

Negotiating Essentials

Negotiating Essentials

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