International Environmental Politics of the USA and Germany - the Example of the Ozone Layer Problem

Term Paper, 2007

23 Pages, Grade: 1.7

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Table of Contents


1 Introduction

2 The Beginnings

3 Domestic Development
3.1 USA
3.2 Germany

4 The Internationalization of the Problem
4.1 The ‘70s
4.2 The first half of the ‘80s

5 The Montreal Protocol and its Amendments
5.1 The Road to Montreal
5.2 The Amendments of the Montreal Protocol

6 Summary and Conclusions



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After several years of discussion as to whether ozone depletion in the stratosphere was caused by human activity or not the hole in the ozone layer was discovered in May 1985. (Oberthür 1993, Grundmann 1999, Schwarze 2000, Schreurs 2002, Jacht 2005).

In October 2006 newspapers reported that the hole in the ozone layer had reached a size of 27.5 million square kilometers. This area is bigger than the area of the whole of North America. With this size, the ozone hole is bigger than ever before. But still scientists expect the ozone layer to have recovered by 2065 (Die Welt 2006, Süddeutsche Zeitung 2006).

The hope of the scientists is based on international agreements about phasing out ozone layer depleting compounds like Chloro Fluoro Carbons (CFCs) or halons. The most important agreements in this context are the Vienna Convention and, even more important, the Montreal Protocol of 1987 and its amendments. According to Schreurs (2002, 116) “Damage to the ozone layer was the first truly global atmospheric issue to face countries around the world.”

And the international community dealt rather successfully with the topic. Within less than ten years (1986 – 1993) production and consumption of ozone depleting substances decreased by 60 %. Furthermore, by now more than 150 member states of the Montreal Protocol did not only achieve their commitments, they even overfulfilled them (Schwarze 2000).

This report presents the events and developments that finally lead to an international agreement about the phasing out of CFCs. It examines which roles the USA and Germany played on the international level in this process and why they played these roles.

It should not be assessed here what are the roles of the US and Germany in international environmental politics in general since a general role does not exist in this field. The reason for this is given by Schwarze (2000, 243, my translation): “Coincidences and individuals play here [on the international level, S.V.] a bigger role than in the ritualized national politics.” That is why international environmental politics strongly vary from one case to another.

First of all it will be described how the ozone layer depletion and the CFCs’ considerable contribution to this process became an issue on the political agenda. Thereafter, the beginnings of the discussion about the ozone problem on the domestic level are presented. In the next step it will be shown how the issue was brought on the international political level. Furthermore, the way to which the international agreements that are concerned with ozone layer depletion will be depicted. In the last part conclusions will be drawn and answers to the above mentioned issues will be given.

2 The Beginnings

First concerns about the ozone layer arose in the early 1970s when the US was considering to build a large supersonic transport fleet. But the substances that were considered to damage the ozone layer were not CFCs but NOx.

Chlorine as a potential threat to the ozone layer became an issue only after two researchers had discovered the ozone depleting effect of chlorine in 1973. The space shuttles that the USA planned to build at that time were seen as a possible source of chlorine in the stratosphere, the location of the ozone layer. It was feared that hydrogen chloride emitted by the booster rockets of the space shuttles could release chlorine driectly into the stratosphere. This objection became the incentive for further scientific research (Grundmann 1999, Schreurs 2002).

The actual starting signal for the politizisation of the problem was the publishing of the so called Molina-Rowland-Hypothesis (MRH) in June 1974 in Nature. The two scientists Sherry Rowland and Mario Molina of the University of California theorized that CFCs could provide a large source of chlorine in the stratosphere. The MRH caused sudden increase of scientific interest in the topic of the stratospheric ozone layer. There still were considerable uncertainties about the general correctness of the hypothesis as well as about the depletion rate of ozone by CFCs. Notwithstanding, the link between CFCs and ozone quickly became a political issue. This was caused alone by the fact that CFCs belonged to the most useful and widespread chemicals of modern economy at that time since they are neither toxic for humans, nor caustic or flamable and used to have many fields of use like e.g. cooling, telecommunication, information technology and plastics (Schreurs 2002, Jacht 2005).

3 Domestic Development

3.1 USA

In the USA two “coalitions” emerged, the pro-regulation coalition on the one side and its oppositition on the other.

The pro-regulation coalition (PRC) was represented by scientists who had published decisive papers about ozone depletion through CFCs as well as by many governmental organisations and technology writers of important newspapers. The governmental organisations on the pro-regulation side were the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Council on Enviornmental Quality (CEQ), the Ad hoc Federal Interagency Task Force on the Inadverted Modification of the Stratosphere (IMOS), the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Consumer Product and Safety Comission (CPSC), thus, organisations that were concerned with environmental protection and consumer safety. The members of the PRC demanded immediate regulation of CFC production and use to avert further damage to the ozone layer.

The “core” of the opposition was the Manufacturing Chemists Association (MCA) and especially its member Du Pont, the biggest manufacturer of CFCs in the US. The MCA was supported by several scientists. The opposition did not want to totally prevent regulations of CFCs as one could expect. The members of this coalition just called for more time for further research to get a more precise image of the situation. They argued that this would be neccessary to evaluate if it was worth bearing the economic costs of CFC regulations to minimize the environmental risks emanating from CFCs (Grundmann 1999).

The opposition’s main strategy to justify its demand was to try and discredit the hypothesis of Molina and Rowland by counter thesis since the industry did not have its own research results in the beginning. At first, the opposition claimed that the scientists who stood up for the MRH themselves would not have any data proving the theory. This argument was nullified by results of the scientist’s field experiments in the middle of the 70s. Other kinds of these discrediting claims were the statements that the ozone depletion rate and the life time of the critical compounds in the stratosphere were rather low and that there was no link between enhanced UV radiation and higher emergence of skin cancer. These claims could be disproved as well, either by new results of research, partly conducted by Du Pont itself, or by other means (Grundmann 1999, Schreurs 2002).

One aspect that seems to be rather contrary to this strategy on first sight is Du Pont’s self commitment “to stop production of the offending compounds” as soon as there was “reputable evidence” (quotation in Grundmann 1999, 169) about a health hazard caused by ozone depletion through CFCs. Through this self-commitment Du Pont even had a greater motivation to deny every reputable evidence of the CFCs’ delitirious effects. Despite this, Du Pont already announced the start of the development of substitute compounds in 1975. Paradoxically, it showed up soon that some of these substitutes could be produced cheaper than CFCs (Schwarze 2000).

A considerable difficulty to deal with the CFC and ozone problem in the US were unclarities about the responsibilty for this issue. However, an explicit responsibility is the precondition for a political solution of a problem. For this reason the Ad hoc Federal Interagency Task Force on the Inadverted Modification of the Stratosphere (IMOS) was set up in January 1975. The purpose of IMOS was to create means for the assessment of possible effects of CFCs on the stratosphere and the development of an action plan.

Half a year later, in June ’75, IMOS published its survey. The content of this survey was very ambiguous. On the one hand it stated that “There seems legitimate cause for serious concern” (quotation in Grundmann 1999, 199) and regulations were estimated to be neccessary sooner or later. On the other hand it was recommended to wait for the results of the report of the NAS, which had not been published at that time, and to take two or three more years for further research.

The results of the NAS report, published in September ’76, were similarily ambiguous: The first part of this report stated that the MRH was basically correct, the second part recommended to wait and to do further research for two more years. Due to this ambiguoty of the reports both of the coalitions interpreted the results of both papers in a way that favored their own position (Grundmann 1999).

Yet, the discussion about the problem combined with the existing considerable uncertainties had created another force weakening the position of the CFC regulations opposing chemical industry. There was huge pressure for action from the side of interest groups and the attention that was given to the topic by the media. Agitated by the concerns about the CFCs’ effect on the ozone layer consumer habits had changed and had already lead to a sharp drop in the sales of CFCs. Moreover, single states, like Oregon and New York, had begun to consider and implement own legislative steps to regulate CFCs and of course industry preferred unilateral action troughout the whole state towards different solutions by the single states (Grundmann 1999, Schreurs 2002).

As a consequence of these domestic political pressures an Amendment of the Clean Air Act concerned with substances that have the potential to affect the ozone layer was passed by Congress in August 1977 and the Federal Drug Administration, the EPA and the CPSC announced a ban of the use of CFCs as propellants in spray cans that would go into effect in 1978 (Schreurs 2002).

3.2 Germany

The discussion about ozone depletion in the stratosphere was “imported” into Germany from the USA like the topic of environmental problems in general in the ‘60s. In Germany there emerged two coalitions as well, similar to but also less pronounced than those in the USA. The main players were the Umweltbundesamt (Federal Agency for the Environment, UBA) on the pro-regulation side and the CFC producer Hoechst AG on the side of the opposition (Grundmann 1999).

Besides the weaker emergence of the coalitions there were more differences between the German and the American coalitions. In Germany the conditions were rather favourable for the opposition, for Hoechst. The UBA was a freshly founded institution with a lack of human ressources, subordinate to the Bundesinnenministerium (Federal Ministry of the Interior, BMI). Therefore, it lacked an own action profile and due to this it acted rather reticently. This gave the chance to Hoechst to assert itself and to take the liberty of attitudes that would not have been possible in the USA. Consequently, Hoechst doubted aspects of the MRH that were in the USA even accepted by Du Pont. Furthermore, Hoechst did not run own research on the topic and rather relied on the interpretation of information from other sources. Overall, Hoechst was less open towards scientific research than Du Pont (Grundmann 1999).

Since Hoechst had better (human) resources than the UBA it was possible for Hoechst to selectively present new information, that was mostly provided by the US, to the BMI. The BMI used to hand this new information to the UBA, which did not have the means to comprehensively comment on the statements of Hoechst. Due to this situation it seemed to the BMI that there was good reason for Hoechst to ask for a longer waiting time before the implementation of CFC regulations (Grundmann 1999).

The situation changed after the publishing of the NAS report and a report of the Battelle Institute, which had been demanded by the BMI: The UBA invited the concerned industry associations and companies, which were Hoechst, Kalichemie and Bosch, for a meeting to talk about the neccessary measures. After longlasting and intensive negotiations in the following time the industry finally made a voluntary commitment in 1977 to reduce CFC use in aerosols by 25 % in 1979 compared with the levels of 1975. There even was a projection of a 50 % reduction to be achieved in 1981. But these commitments were “not a big concession since consumer buying habits were changing.” (Schreurs 2002, 123)

Overall it seemed that the German governments did not have a big interest in regulating CFCs since they did not want to put jobs at risk. According to Grundmann (1999) the government did not intend to pass prohibitions of CFCs. They wanted to achieve CFC reductions just through pressure on the CFC producers and through consumer information. Furthermore, there was a report by the federal minister of the interior in 1980 stating that a total ban on CFCs in aerosols were feasible abroad but not in Germany since it would result in sales losses acounting up to 0.3 % of the chemical industry’s total sales of 1977. Besides this it was argued that good alternatives for CFCs would not exist (Grundmann 1999, Schreurs 2002).

A feature that initially helped Germany to reduce domestic as well as international pressure to act was its EU membership (Schreurs 2002). The EU had an anti-regulation stance on the problem. Therefore, Germany could argue that passing strict regulations would not allow to keep in line with EU policies. Speaking with one voice was important for the EU to be taken seriously as a legitimate and competent negotiation party on the international level.

The inital domestic discussion of the ozone problem in Germany was marked by a rather low media interest and very limited grass root activity, very different from the situation in the US. Even though consumer buying habits were changing, which created pressure on CFC producing and processing industries (Grundmann 1999, Schreurs 2002).

Overall, depletion of stratospheric ozone by the release of CFCs into the atmosphere was no big political issue in Germany in the beginning.

4 The Internationalization of the Problem

4.1 The ‘70s

In the internationalization process the international negotiation party was the EU rather than Germany itself. Thefore, Germany will mainly be regarded concerning its actions within the EU.

The internationalizing of the ozone issue was particularly important for the USA for scientific, environmental and economic reasons. The neccessary research on the ozone layer was a very expensive matter. Because of this the US wanted to have some support from other countries. Even more important was that a solo attempt in phasing out of CFCs by the USA would not solve the problem completely as long as other countries would continue producing and using CFCs. In addition, the USA would have an economical disadvantage if other countries would go on with the production of CFC while the US themselves had quit the production (Schreurs 2002).

The actual internationalisation of the problem began with two international meetings of experts in Wasington in 1977, the first one organized by UNEP and the second one by the US EPA. At these meetings regulations of CFCs were discussed but no consensus on action could be reached. During one of the meetings the World Plan of Action on the Ozone Layer was passed. The content of this action plan was the recommendation for scientific collaboration. But besides the agreement on collaboration in research the result of the conferences was just the cognition that “the ozone layer is a global ressource, and that current knowledge is adequate to give cause for concern about effects of chlorofluorocarbon use on the ozone shield.” (quotation in Schreurs 2002, 121) During these meetings the positions of the single countries became evident: While the USA and Canada together with the Netherlands argued for prohibitions of CFCs without further scientific evidence the UK, France, Belgium and the Soviet Union did not want any regulations (Grundmann 1999, Schwarze 2000, Schreurs 2002).

In the end of 1978 the UBA invited for a follow-up meeting in Munich where regulatory action should be discussed. Germany still sticked to its attitude that an impairment of the ozone layer by CFCs was considered to be very probable but because of considerable uncertainties and lack of knowledge there would be no neccessity for further action. On the other hand Germany did not want to create the impression that it was an international laggard concerning ecological issues. Thus, Germany took up a rather cautious stance for the negotiations at this meeting. The overall result of the meeting in Munich was not much more advanced than the outcome of the meetings in Washington, mainly due to the strong opposition of the UK and of France. No quantitave reduction goals were set. It was just stated that “there should be a global reduction in the release of fluorocarbons” (quotation in Schreurs 2002, 121). Besides this it was called upon the industry and all governments of the world to work towards significant CFC reductions (Grundmann 1999, Schreurs 2002).

The different efforts of several states to reduce CFC as well as the changed consumer buying habits made the worldwide CFC production drop by about 25 % between 1974 and 1982 (Schreurs 2002).

4.2 The first half of the ‘80s

The begining of the decade of the 1980s entailed some changes. Due to growing international pressure the EU agreed in spring 1980 upon a freeze of production capacity of CFC-11 and CFC-12 and upon a CFC use reduction in aerosol sprays of at least 30% to be reached by the end of 1981. But this decision constitued only a minimum solution since the CFC use reduction had already nearly been achieved by the changed consumer buying habits. Thus, this decision rather was a signal of the EU to the USA that there existed will to act against ozone layer depletion (Grundmann 1999, Schwarze 2000, Schreurs 2002, Jacht 2005).

However, the most outstanding development of the beginning of the ‘80s was the near disappearance of the ozone problem in public discussion, in the USA as well as in Germany/ Europe, where it had not been a big issue anyway. In the USA one factor responsible for this development was the public thought that the problem was solved with the ban on CFCs in aerosols. Moreover, there was a NAS report in 1981 stating that no evidence of ozone layer depletion could be found. Due to this situation Du Pont stopped its research (Grundmann 1999, Schreurs 2002).

Another reason for the lack of interest in the topic of CFCs and stratospheric ozone was Reagan’s presidency, beginning in 1981. Reagan completely changed environmental politics and made the difficult economical situation first priority. In his opinion any efforts for the environment, either by the state or by companies, were an obstacle for economic recovery.

But there was even a second retarding personality at that time. Anne Gorsuch Burford was the EPA administrator from 1981 to 1983. She did not consider ozone layer depletion as a serious problem and therefore she dried up all administrative support for further regulatory efforts (Grundmann 1999, Schreurs 2002).

Due to the neglect of the problem and the chemical’s growing importance the production levels started to rise again in 1982. In 1987 they reached the same levels as in the beginning of the ‘70s (Schreurs 2002, Jacht 2005).

Even despite the “forgetting” about the ozone problem the UNEP made the issue a priority action area on the UNEP conference in 1981 held in Montevideo. This conference was the starting point for negotiations upon a famework convention on ozone depletion. During this negotiation process two main proposals for the framework convention emerged:

- The proposal of the Toronto group. Members of this group that had received its name from the location where a meeting of this group had been held, were Canada, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and later on also the USA. The Toronto group advocated a worldwide ban on the non-essential use of CFCs in spray cans and some other, further regulations.
- The proposal of the EU group: Together with Japan and the Soviet Union the EU required a production capacity freeze of CFC-11 and CFC-12 and a 30 % reduction of the CFC use in aerosol sprays. This proposal provided a rather “comfortable” solution for the EU since it was exactly the same as the goals of the EU agreement of 1980. Thus, this regulation would not have required any further efforts by the EU.

The catalyst for the change of the USA back to its former position and its joining the Toronto group was the change of the head of the US EPA from Gorsuch Burford to Ruckelshaus after Gorsuch Burford was forced to resign. Through this change a personality in a decisive position that rather inhibited ozone layer friendly policies was replaced by a person with a more progressive attitude regarding the ozone problem.

The negotiations ended up with the signing of the Vienna Convention by forty-three states in 1985. No consenus on which kind of measures were to be adopted had been reached. The Vienna Convention just created a general obligation to take appropriate steps and measures to protect the ozone layer (Oberthür 1993, Grundmann 1999, Schreurs 2002, Jacht 2005).

5 The Montreal Protocol and its Amendments

5.1 The Road to Montreal

With the signing of the Vienna Convention the last word was not spoken. The signatories agreed upon a follow-up meeting in 1987.

The (w)hole problem gained more urgence when two British scientists published their finding of the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctica in 1985 (Oberthür 1993, Grundmann 1999, Schwarze 2000, Schreurs 2002, Jacht 2005).

In advance to the resumption of the negotiations there occured considerable and important changes in 1986:

In a letter to the customers the head of Du Pont’s Freon-Department, the department for CFC production within Du Pont, admitted that the company considered it possible that CFCs have a relation with the ozone hole above the Antarctica as well as with global ozone depletion. Furthermore, it was considered possible that CFCs are greenhouse gases.

This was a complete tournaround of this important company’s position. Just in the year before it had anounced its intentions to enhance the CFC capacities in Japan. Du Pont’s change was a rather “big deal” for the supporters of the MRH. Before this change Du Pont had been the CFC producer that was fighting most fiercly against regulations. It even had become an icon for the resistance against regulations in public. Thus, the withdrawal of Du Pont forced other producers to pull out of CFC production, either, because there were no more justifications for continuing if even Du Pont stops its production (Grundmann 1999).

The second decisive change occured in Germany’s position. The domestic political landscape of Germany was greening considerably after the Chernobyl accident in 1986, which was strongly expressed by the electoral success of the Green Party in the ‘86 elections. The accident in Chernobyl even lead to the foundation of the Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Reactor Safety. Thus, the ozone issue did not only have opportunities in public but also on the administrative level.

Before the foundation of the Ministry for the Environment the Ministry of the Interior had been responsible for this problem but this ministry rather was interested in economic progress than in environmental sound policies. That was why officials concerned with environmental questions did not gain much attention and means. Now, with an own ministry for environmental issues, they had much more means available. Agitated by the domestic development the German government desired to play a leading role also on the international level. Germany expected that it would have some advantages within the EU if it improved its environmental standards (Grundmann 1999. Schreurs 2002).

The international negotiations started again in 1987. The USA entered the negotiations together with the Toronto group with the proposal of a 95 % reduction of certain CFCs and halons to be reached in the year 2000. The European Union in contrast still sticked to its former demand of a production capacity cap and a 30 % CFC use reduction. But there were strong internal differences within the EU. The UK, France and Italy went on favouring the mere production capacity cap. Germany had changed the sides and was now calling for stricter regulations together with Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium (Schreurs 2002).

Germany even became a precursor within the EU. It used the given constellation in a smart way. On one side the USA was very much interested in a changed position of the European Union. On the other side the EU was anxious to keep a common policy supported by all member states to be internationally seen as a unity. How could this situation be solved? Here Germany played the decisive role. On the one hand it did not take side with the USA. Actually, Germany wanted strict regulations, just like the USA, but did not want to break its loyality with the EU. On the other hand Germany did not agree with Europe’s low-level solution. The Germans for example strongly criticized a report of the EU published in November 1986 which stated that no further action than the measures taken in 1980 would be neccessary. To keep a uniform European policy, which was wanted by all means, the EU was forced to depart from its demands of mere production capacity caps (Grundmann 1999, Schreurs 2002).

The USA regained their forceful leading role in the negotiations for the Montreal Protocol. American environmental foreign policy was backed domestically by wide public support after the discovery of the ozone whole and by the changed position of the chemical industry, especially of Du Pont. Supported by Germany’s shift the US gained more strength internationally as well.

The result of the negotiations under this constellation was the signing of the Montreal Protocol on September 16th, 1987 by twenty-five countries. The regulations stipulated within the Montreal Protocol were a freeze on production and consumption of controlled CFCs at 1986 levels and afterwards a step by step reduction of 50 % compared to 1986 by 1998. Moreover, it had been agreed upon a production and consumtion freeze of certain halons. Developing countries were given some exceptions. An important feature of the Montreal Protocol was “its provision for periodic reviews of new scientific, technical, and economic understandings” (Schreurs 2002, 139). This way it was possible to amend the agreement according to new findings (Oberthür 1993, Grundmann 1999, Schwarze 2000, Schreurs 2002, Jacht 2005).

5.2 The Amendments of the Montreal Protocol

In March 1988 the Ozone Trends Panel unveiled that ozone depletion was occuring over the northern hemisphere as well. This resulted in the industry’s support for a phase out of CFCs, in the EU as well as in the USA. But also politically the phase out was urged. Germany and Denmark called upon the EU to speed up the phase out. Even the opposing United Kingdom changed its position in this year and became supporters of strict regulations, which was commented to be ‘the Greening of Margret Thatcher’. In March 1989 the EU Council joined the proposal of a complete phase out of CFCs as it was favoured by Germany and the UK. US-President Bush thereafter gave permission to the EPA administrator to join the course of the EU. Thus, it was not anymore the USA taking the initiative, as before the Montreal Protcol, but the EU (Grundmann 1999, Schreurs 2002).

The first meeting after the signing of the Montreal Protocol took place in Helsinki in 1989. At the end of this meeting a declaration which required a phase out of CFCs by the year 2000 was signed by eighty states. (Grundmann 1999, Schreurs 2002).

In 1990 Margret Thatcher invited to an international conference on ozone in London. At this conference it was not anymore the question if regulations would be needed or not and if they would be needed, which dimension they should have. Now rather the technical and financial support programs for developing countries to make the phasing out also possible for them were to be discussed. The participating states considered a fund as a solution for this problem. Surprisingly, one of the biggest opponents to this proposal were the USA. Besides the resistance to the fund the US also opposed together with Japan and the Soviet Union the proposal of a total phase out of CFCs by 1997. The USA intended to protect their industry and itself from high economic costs. Just after the American industry stated that it actually wanted the international proposals and after it was asured to the USA that the fund for the developing countries would not be a precedence, the States agreed in the proposals and took again on a stronger stance concerning the time frames for the regulations. In the end it was agreed upon a CFC phase out by 2000 and a phase out of other substances like e.g methyl chloroform by 2005 as well as upon the creation of a fund for the developing countries. Furthermore, developing countries were given ten more years for the phase out (Grundmann 1999, Schreurs 2002).

After a newly scientific input had suggested that ozone holes could form over heavily populated regions on the northern hemisphere the international community and especially the industrial countries became even more hectic. “George H. W. Bush, who had only shown lukewarm support for many of the amendment proposals, announced that the US would move up the phase out date of CFCs, halons, methyls chloroform, and carbon tetrachloride except for ‘essential uses’, by the end of 1995. [...] In Germany, the Bundesrat demanded an earlier phase out of CFCs and halons. The EC announced that it would move up its phase out date to 1995 as well” (Schreurs 2002, 141).

The Montreal Protocol was further amended on the meeting in Copenhagen in 1992 by moving up the phase out dates for CFCs, carbon tetrachloride and methyl chloroform to 1996 and for halons even to 1994. Besides this several other chemicals were added (Grundmann 1999, Schreurs 2002).

6 Summary and Conclusions

Summarizing the roles of the USA and Germany in the process that finally lead to the Montreal Protocol Germany did not play an important role or actually they even played a retarding role in the beginning of the negotiations due to the domestic role of the ozone problem in Germany. The USA on the contrary were the initiator of the international dealing with the issue. This was due to the “Quick reaction of the American society and the state of the US in 1970s” which “caused a chain reaction because other states followed the example and took one-sided measures to reduce their consumption of CFCs.” (Jacht 2005, 33, my translation) But also the USA’s invitation to the first international meeting on the protection of the ozone layer in line with the UNEP in 1977 was a very important incinerator for the development (Schwarze 2000, Jacht 2005).

But in the beginning of the ‘80s the USA lost its pushing role. During this period the UNEP was essential for the continuance of the process but soon the USA took on again their leadership role. Germany was still having an opposing stance towards CFC regulations but this position underwent a radical change in 1986. From then on also Germany pushed towards regulations, not directly on the international level but within the EU, which had big effects on the international politics of the EU. At the London Conference in 1990 the whole constellation even changed to the contrary. Now the EU, which includes Germany, was agitating for stricter regulation goals and help for developing countries to get them ‘into the boat’ as well while the USA tried to inhibit these plans.

After London the USA came back to a progressive stance, but it did not play any more the role of a leader since the EU was still pushing, either. Partly, the Europeans even had stronger demands than the USA (Jacht 2005).

If one compares the points of time when the countries changed their positions with the domestic happenings at these times one can see that the domestic situation seems to have a very big influence on the international politics. One of the most obvious examples is the first change of the US position in the beginning of the ‘80s when Reagan became US President and Anne Gorsuch Burford became administrator of the US EPA. Both of them did not give much importance to the issue of stratospheric ozone depletion. But as was already mentioned before this was not the only reason for the change in position of the USA.

The influence of the domestic situation on international policy is clearer in Germany’s case when the country changed its position in 1986. An environmental catastrophe, the Chernobyl accident, lead to a heightend environmental awareness of the German society and to the foundation of the Ministry for the Environment. Both of these factors resulted in a change of Germany’s attitude on the ozone problem, domestically as well as internationally.

The phenomenon of the domestic influence on international politics can be explained by the sandwiched situation of a government. On the one side a government needs to satisfy the international community to avoid international conflicts with all of their consequences. On the other side the government has of course to satisfy its own people to have a chance of reelection. Satisfying the own people is not only done by domestic policies but also through the governments international politics.

The importance of the domestic situation for international politics in the case of the ozone problem is true for Germany and the USA but cannot be generalized. In Japan for example there was no public attention on the topic. Here a change in position came about by “international exchange of information, application of heavy US pressure, and changing policy dynamics” (Schreurs 2002, 138).

Another factor that had an influence on the positions of the countries was science, especially in the beginning of the discussion about the problem. The USA had very active groups of researchers in the field of stratospheric research. Some of these researchers saw themselves as representatives of weak interests. On the contrary stratospheric research was no big issue in Germany in the ‘70s. The research was only started after the beginning of the discussion about ozone depletion. The focus of German atmospheric research had rather been on the troposphere (Grundmann 1999). Thus, the topic could gain more attention in the USA than in Germany because of more active research and researchers in the concerned field and linked with that more publicity for the problem. This again influenced the public opinion which in turn was an important factor for poltical decisions.

Overall, I see Schwarze’s statement, that I have already mentioned partly in the introduction, confirmed: “Negotiation outcomes in international environmental politics are the results of complex, unstructured political decision making processes. Coincidences and individuals play here [on the international level, S.V.] a bigger role than in the ritualized national politics.” (Schwarze 2000, 243, my translation)

To give just two examples: Without the forcing of Anne Gorsuch Burford to resign her office as US EPA administrator for some reasons that were not linked with the ozone problem the USA would not have come back to its former position, at least not so soon. Without the Chernobyl accident, which did not have a relation with the ozone problem either, German society would not have become more aware of environmental problems and the Ministry for the Environment would not have been founded, at least not in 1986. Thus, Germany would not have changed its position at that time.


Die Welt 2006: Ozonloch so groß wie Nordamerika, article of October 20th, 2006

Grundmann, Reiner 1999: Transnationale Umweltpolitik zum Schutz der Ozonschicht – USA und Deutschland im Vergleich, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt/ Main

Jacht, Miriam 2005: Zukunftsperspektiven für ein globales Klimaregime: Lehren aus dem internationalen Ozonregime?, Institut Européen des Hautes Etudes Internationales, Nice

Oberthür, Sebastian 1993: Politik im Treibhaus – Die Entstehung des internationalen Klimaschutzregimes, edition sigma rainer bohn verlag, Berlin

Schreurs, Miranda A. 2002: Environmental politics in Japan, Germany, and the United States, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge

Schwarze, Reimund 2000: Internationale Klimapolitik, Metropolis-Verlag, Marburg

Süddeutsche Zeitung 2006: NASA bestätigt: Ozonloch groß wie nie, article of Octobre 19th, 2006

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International Environmental Politics of the USA and Germany - the Example of the Ozone Layer Problem
University of Lüneburg  (Institut für Umweltstrategien)
Comparative Environmental Policy and Politics: USA and Germany
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International, Environmental, Politics, Germany, Example, Ozone, Layer, Problem, Comparative, Environmental, Policy, Politics, Germany
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Sarah Velten (Author), 2007, International Environmental Politics of the USA and Germany - the Example of the Ozone Layer Problem, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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