Millions for Developing Countries Sought to Extend Ozone Recovery

DAKAR, Senegal, December 13, 2005 (ENS) - Industrialized countries are being asked to provide $439 million over the next three years to support the phaseout of ozone-depleting substances in developing countries. The request for funds comes as world governments meet here this week to plan the global elimination of chemicals that deplete the Earth's protective ozone layer.

The conference includes the Seventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer as well as the 17th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. It will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Convention.

Since the adoption of the Vienna Convention in 1985, followed by the Montreal Protocol in 1987, international control over substances that deplete the ozone layer has expanded to address nearly 100 chemicals – some of which also contribute to global warming.

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The ozone hole over Antarctica in September 2005 is shown in dark blue. (Photo courtesy NASA)
Scientists say that while the ozone layer is no longer declining, it is still low in some areas compared to historical times. They project that the return of ozone to normal levels will take several decades. The chemicals responsible for the ozone depletion can take years to filter up to the stratosphere, where the ozone layer is located.

"Some of these chemicals remain in the stratosphere for many decades, meaning that chemicals produced years ago will continue to be harmful for decades to come," said Sherwood Rowland, who, along with Mario Molina and Paul Crutzen, won the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry for their work identifying the threat to the ozone layer.

Still, the ozone layer is no longer thinning, according to an analysis of satellite records and surface monitoring instruments by scientists working with the Center for Integrating Statistical and Environmental Science at the University of Chicago. The study focused on the thickness of the ozone layer and measured the amount of harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching the surface of the Earth.

Overexposure to UV radiation can cause an increase in skin cancers and cataracts in the eyes. Scientists warn that skin and eye precautions, such as wearing sunscreen, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses, still should be taken.

Opening the Dakar conference, Marco Gonzalez, executive secretary of the Ozone Secretariat, recognized the enduring political commitment of the international community to protect the ozone layer.

Gonzalez

Marco Gonzalez is executive secretary of the Ozone Secretariat (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
The conference will focus on how developed countries can best eliminate their remaining ozone-depleting substances - whose impact on the ozone layer is now less than two percent of what it was during the peak years - while supporting the continued phaseout in developing countries.

Developed under the guidance of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), initiatives to control ozone depletion have transformed the refrigeration, electronics, plastic foam and other industries and have touched the lives of virtually all the world’s citizens, usually without their knowledge.

"The Montreal Protocol clearly demonstrates that, once they have access to technical and financial resources, developing countries are ready, willing and able to take aggressive action to protect the global environment," said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer.

The Montreal Protocol’s Technology and Economic Assessment Panel is recommending that the $439 million be added to the Multilateral Fund, an institution that has promoted the transfer of ozone-friendly technologies and skills to most developing countries. The Fund has enabled these countries to surpass their phaseout goals and reduce their consumption of ozone-depleting substances by over 60 percent.

"The Multilateral Fund has proven itself highly effective in supporting national phaseout programs, and it deserves the strongest possible support for enabling developing countries to achieve the Protocol’s ambitious goals for the years ahead," Toepfer said.

Diagne Fada, Minister of Environment and the Protection of Nature, Senegal told delegates of the importance of environmental protection for future generations and urged individuals, nongovernmental and public and private entities to participate.

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Diagne Fada is Senegal's Minister of Environment and the Protection of Nature. (Photo courtesy ENB)
Developed countries have already phased out virtually all uses of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – historically the greatest cause of ozone destruction. Now banned under the Montreal Protocol, CFCs were once widely used in aerosol cans and refrigerators. CFCs themselves are inert, but ultraviolet radiation high in the atmosphere breaks them down into their constituent parts, which can be highly reactive with ozone.

But a number of developed countries, including the United States, have been unable to meet the agreed 2005 phaseout target for methyl bromide, a widely used agricultural soil fumigant and pesticide. Developing countries have until 2015 to phaseout methyl bromide.

This has led 16 developed countries to request "critical-use exemptions" from the methyl-bromide phaseout on the grounds that there are no technically or economically feasible alternatives available to them for specific uses.

Earlier conferences granted exemptions to these countries totaling 16,050 metric tons for 2005 and 13,014 tons for 2006.

In Dakar, the Parties will consider requests for critical-use exemptions for 2007 amounting to less then 8,000 tons. While additional requests may still be forthcoming, strong pressure on the users of methyl bromide to find replacements appears to have led to a downward trend in use of this chemical.

Meanwhile, since 1994 a limited number of developed countries have been requesting and receiving essential use exemptions for the use of CFCs in metered dose inhalers, most commonly used to address asthma. From a high of nearly 14,000 metric tons requested for 1997, the Parties to the Protocol will be considering requests for 2,527 tons in 2006 and 1,736 tons in 2007.

"The phaseout in the costly, technically challenging and critically important area of medicinal uses of CFCs should be seen as a hallmark of the Protocol’s success," said Toepfer. "It has brought together scientists, business leaders and government officials to achieve the global environmental objective of protecting the ozone layer.

"While it may be taking a bit longer than we may have liked, governments have been prudent in weighing the lifesaving nature of these drugs against the environmental imperative and in allowing time for proven alternatives to penetrate the market," Toepfer said.

In addition to the Montreal Protocol agenda, the Dakar conference will include items under its parent agreement, the Vienna Convention, which now meets every third year. This Convention, which focuses on the scientific study of ozone depletion, will consider recommendations by experts aimed at ensuring that there is a sufficient global monitoring network in place to assess the healing of the ozone layer and the effects that the emission of other gases into the atmosphere may have on that healing.

In addition, an awards ceremony on December 15 will mark the contribution of ozone scientists and others on the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Vienna Convention, as well as statements by ministers and senior officials.

For more information on the ozone layer, click here.