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'Historic' deal reached on cutting ozone threats

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Luke Hodiak
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« on: September 22, 2007, 11:34:34 pm »

'Historic' deal reached on cutting ozone threats
by Philippe Sauvagnargues
2 hours, 4 minutes ago
 


Smoke bellows from the Syncrude facility in the northern Alberta oil sand fields, June 2007 in Fort McMurray, Canada. Nearly 200 countries have agreed to accelerate the elimination of chemicals that threaten the ozone and exacerbate global warming, a top UN official announced Saturday.(AFP/File/David Boily)



MONTREAL (AFP) - Nearly 200 countries have agreed to accelerate the elimination of chemicals that threaten the ozone and exacerbate global warming, the United Nations Environmental Program announced Saturday.

 
UNEP chief Achim Steiner hailed the agreement by governments to move forward bans on dangerous hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) as a "vital signal" in efforts to slow climate change and welcomed China's willingness to back the deal.

"It is perhaps the most important breakthrough in an international environment negotiation process for at least five or six years," Steiner said.

"Historic is an often over-used word but not in the case of this agreement made in Montreal. Governments had a golden opportunity to deal with the twin challenges of climate change and protecting the ozone layer and governments took it," Steiner said.

The agreement came as world leaders were set for an unprecedented UN summit on Monday aimed at breaking the deadlock in efforts to craft a global treaty on greenhouse gases.

Under the deal reached at the UN-sponsored conference, developed countries will phase out the production of HCFCs by 2020 and developing states have until 2030 -- 10 years earlier than previously promised.

The agreement changes the timetable that had been set in 1987 under the Montreal Protocol, which aims to eliminate the use of HCFCs and related chemicals, often found in refrigerators, fire retardants and hairspray.

"The precise and final savings in terms of greenhouse gas emissions could amount to several billions of tonnes illustrating the complementarities of international environmental agreements," Steiner said.

Canada's Environment Minister John Baird called the success of the week-long meeting of 190 countries and the European Union a major step in battling global warming.

"The agreement to speed up the elimination of HCFCs will go down in the books as another successful chapter in the Montreal protocols," he said.

"But it will also stand out as a pivotal moment in the international fight against global warming ... It's no secret that the Montreal Protocol had the benefit of helping the ozone layer and slowing devastating effects of climate change."

The aim of the original and newest Montreal agreements was to slow and eventually help reverse the expanding hole in the ozone layer, which protects the earth and people from harmful solar rays which can cause skin cancer and accelerate global warming.

Steiner praised China, one of the world's biggest manufacturers and users of HCFCs, for its support of the negotiations.

"We are talking about a burden-sharing formula whereby the international community helps particularly nations like China who ... here in Montreal have shown a remarkable willingness to reach an international agreement."

The deal moves forward both production freeze targets and complete phase out of HCFCs, which originally became popular with manufacturers as a substitute for more dangerous chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) formally popular as industrial coolants.

In the agreement developing countries agreed to freeze HCFC production and consumption of the chemicals in 2013 rather than 2016. They will totally phase out production by 2030.

Developed countries are committed to reducing HCFC consumption by 75 percent in 2010, and completely phase out consumption and production by 2020.

According to a US government statement, the effect will be to reduce by 47 percent potential emissions into the atmosphere of ozone-damaging chemicals.

The UNEP said in a statement that the success of the Montreal conference provides a stimulus for the UN climate convention negotiations scheduled for Bali, Indonesia in December.

In the United States, the White House hailed the Montreal agreement in a statement as "one of the most significant new global actions to confront climate change."
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