The control of the production of ozone-depleting substances through the Montreal Protocol means that the stratospheric ozone layer is recovering and that consequent increases in harmful surface ultraviolet radiation are being avoided.
The Montreal Protocol has co-benefits for climate change mitigation, because ozone-depleting substances are potent greenhouse gases. The avoided ultraviolet radiation and climate change also have co-benefits for plants and their capacity to store carbon through photosynthesis, but this has not previously been investigated.
Here, using a modelling framework that couples ozone depletion, climate change, damage to plants by ultraviolet radiation and the carbon cycle, we explore the benefits of avoided increases in ultraviolet radiation and changes in climate on the terrestrial biosphere and its capacity as a carbon sink. Considering a range of strengths for the effect of ultraviolet radiation on plant growth, we estimate that there could have been 325–690 billion tonnes less carbon held in plants and soils by the end of this century (2080–2099) without the Montreal Protocol (as compared to climate projections with controls on ozone-depleting substances). This change could have resulted in an additional 115–235 parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which might have led to additional warming of global-mean surface temperature by 0.50–1.0 degrees. Our findings suggest that the Montreal Protocol may also be helping to mitigate climate change through avoided decreases in the land carbon sink.