Accommodating the interests of developing countries in the climate change regime: Lessons from the ozone layer regime

AuthorMulugeta Getu
PositionLecturer and Associate Dean, Haramaya University College of Law, LLB (Haramaya University) LLM (University of Alabama)
Mulugeta Getu
The problem of climate change has attracted international attention mainly
because of its cross-border effects and the impossibility of solving the problem
by a few nations. The delay in combating climate change is attributable to
various factors including polarized interests among nations. On the other hand,
the Montreal Protocol (ozone depletion) regime has managed to balance and
reconcile the interests of both the global South and the global North towards a
common goal. Even if some differences exist between the two problems,
lessons from the ozone depletion regime can inform the climate regime and
enhance the participation of developing nations without adversely affecting
their interests. The lessons include a sequential approach [i.e. addressing the
most critical issue –emission from developed countries – first], increased
participation and compliance, improved financial assistance and technology
transfer regimes and enhanced political commitment to climate change. These
lessons are in tune with the principle of common but differentiated
responsibilities which should facilitate a meaningful participation from
developing countries in the climate change regime.
Key words
Climate change, Kyoto Protocol, Montreal Protocol, ozone depletion,
sequential approach, technology transfer, technical assistance
Acronyms and Abbreviations
CDM Clean Development Mechanism
CFCs Chlorofluorocarbons
GEF Global Environmental Facility
GHGs Greenhouse gases
HCFC Hydro-chlorofluorocarbons
Mulugeta Getu, Lecturer and Associate Dean, Haramaya University College of Law,
LLB (Haramaya University) LLM (University of Alabama). I would like to thank
Professor William Andreen, Dr. Richard Wentzell and Brooke Glass O’shea for their
comments on an earlier version of this article which was part of an unpublished
research. Email:
2 MIZAN LAW REVIEW Vol. 6 No.1, June 2012
HDI Human Development Index
IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
KPAF Kyoto Protocol Adaptation Fund
LDCF Least Developed Countries Fund
MEAs Multilateral Environmental Agreements
ODSs Ozone Depleting Substances
REDD Reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation
SCCF Special Climate Change Fund
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
UNEP United Nations Environment Programme
UNFCCC UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
Environmental problems are increasingly becoming the subject of global
concern owing to their cross-border effects, and because it is also impossible for
one or a few nations to solve these problems on their own.1 However, a global
consensus on how to solve these environmental problems and define the
respective obligations of nations is not easy.2 Ozone layer depletion and climate
change are typical examples in this regard.
The achievements in the climate change and ozone depletion regimes are not
comparable. The ozone depletion regime is “recognized as a landmark accord in
the most effective international environmental regime to date”3 and it is
frequently “hailed as the most successful environmental treaty ever devised,”4 In
contrast, the climate change regime has continued to be in “the forefront of
public debate” for its failure to bring about effective solutions.5 Thus, many
1 This is best described by the principles of ‘interdependency of ecosystem’, ‘common
concern of mankind’, and ‘common heritage of mankind’ all calling for the global
cooperation. See Principles 4, 21-26 of the Declaration of the United Nations
Conference on The Human Environment, (1972), Stockholm.
2 Susskind identifies the traditional North-South split, national sovereignty and lack of
incentives as the three basic obstacles for global cooperation. Lawrence E. Susskind
(1994). Environmental Diplomacy: Negotiating More Effective Global Agreements, 18
(Oxford University Press, NY, Oxford,).
3 Laura Thoms (2003). ‘A Comparative Analysis of International Regimes on Ozone
and Climate Change with Implications for Regime Design’, 41 Columbia Journal of
Transnational Law 795, at 795.
4 Richard E. Benedick, (1998). Ozone Diplomacy: New Directions in Safeguarding the
Planet, 1 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press: 2nd ed.).
5 Bryan A. Green, (2009). ‘Lessons from the Montreal Protocol: Guidance for The Next
International Climate Change Agreement’, 39 Environmental Law 253, at 254.
successful elements of the ozone depletion regime, including the negotiation
process and devices used to ensure the participation and meaningful contribution
of developing nations, could perhaps serve as a model for future climate change
The traditional North-South divide, which presents enormous challenges to
the adoption of many multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) due to
economic disparities, is one of the reasons for the delays that have occurred in
fighting climate change.7 However, the Montreal Protocol regime, which deals
with ozone layer depletion, is considered by many as a breakthrough in many
respects, partially because it managed to balance and reconcile the interests of
both the developing South and the developed North and brought both groups
together to achieve a common goal.8 Based on scholarly literature, international
agreements, decisions and reports, and other empirical data, this article assesses
the kinds of lessons one can draw from the Montreal Protocol regime for
application to the developing climate change regime. In particular, it addresses
the ways in which the interests and commitments of the developing and
developed nations were balanced by the Montreal regime.
Section 1 highlights the origin and features of ozone depletion and climate
change and further explores the actions taken by the international community to
address these environmental hazards including the negotiations, challenges
encountered and the degree of success attained in the two regimes. The second
section of the article focuses on the concerns raised by developing countries and
their reasons for claiming preferential treatment in MEAs, the mechanisms
devised by the Montreal regime to address these concerns, and the degree of
success such mechanisms have had. Moreover, some differences and similarities
of the two regimes are discussed with a view to identifying the lessons that
contributed to the success of the Montreal regime. Section 3 assesses the
lessons that can safely be applied to the climate regime through global
consensus that requires enhanced participation of developing nations without
adversely affecting their interests. Hence, a sequential approach [addressing the
6 Id; Laura Thoms, supra note 3, at 795; Sean Cumberlege, (2009). ‘Multilateral
Environmental Agreements: From Montreal to Kyoto - a Theoretical Approach to an
Improved Climate Change Regime’, 37 Denver Journal of International Law and
Policy 303, at 304.
7 See for example, Harro van Asselt and Joyeeta Gupta, (2009). ‘Stretching Too Far?
Developing Countries and The Role Of Flexibility Mechanisms Beyond Kyoto’, 28
Stan. Envtl. L.J. 311; Michael Weisslitz, , (2002). Comment, ‘Rethinking the
Equitable Principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility: Differential Versus
Absolute Norms of Compliance and Contribution in the Global Climate Change
Context’, 13 Colo. J. Int'l Envtl. L. & Pol'y 473.
8 Weisslitz, Ibid, at 480.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT