Methyl bromide is a fumigant chemical used to control pests, diseases and weeds in horticultural crops.
“In the 1990s, it underpinned over $50 billion of global crop production,” says Professor Ian Porter, “but it was also one of the most destructive, ozone-depleting pesticides.”
In 1992, methyl bromide was listed under the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to phase out the production of substances responsible for ozone depletion.
Porter, who is passionate about finding solutions for industry and the environment, led the research for the Australian phase out strategy. “We achieved a levy on methyl bromide and, through a national research program, identified strategies to replace methyl bromide and maintain sustainable productivity,” he says.
The Australian phase out was regarded as best practice and, in 1997, Porter was selected by the United Nations to become a member, and later, co-chair of the Methyl Bromide Technical Options Committee. Today he also serves on the Technology and Economic Assessment Panel, the top technical decision-making committee of the Montreal Protocol.
“Our contribution has helped to reduce global, non-quarantine uses of methyl bromide by 99%,” says Porter, passionately. “Reduction of methyl bromide has contributed 34% to the present recovery of the ozone layer. Today only quarantine uses of the chemical remain.”
“Control of methyl bromide and other ozone depleting substances has avoided millions of cases of skin cancer and cataracts,” he adds, “and, together with hydrofluorocarbon phase out, will reduce the predicted rise in global temperature by 0.4 degrees by 2100.”
“The science is clear. We all benefit from less ultraviolet radiation and ozone layer recovery.”