Further Climate Action Under Ozone Layer Treaty Must Wait
Countries Unable to Reach Consensus on Best Way to Rid World of Global Warming HFCs
But Progress Made on Other Fronts, Including Destruction of Chemical Stockpiles to Managing Use of Ozone-Damaging Chemicals for Quarantine and Pre-Shipment
Port Ghalib/Nairobi 10 November 2009-Countries meeting under the ozone layer protection treaty made progress on a wide range of issues, including the use of chemicals to kill pests on international commodity shipments up to advancing action to destroy banks of CFCs in old and stockpiled equipment.
But nations could not in the end reach consensus on the high profile issue of whether a group of gases, currently controlled under the international climate agreement, might be better controlled and phased-down under the ozone treaty.
The 21st Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, meeting in the Red Sea town of Port Ghalib, had two amendments before them-one from the Federated States of Micronesia and Mauritius and another from Canada, Mexico and the United States.
These focused on controlling synthetic gases known as hydroflurocarbons (HFCs). Scientists are concerned that if these become the replacement chemicals of choice in products such as refrigeration systems and air conditioners their climate impact could become significant over the coming decades.
Those supporting action under the ozone treaty argue that a commitment to phase-down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol would catalyze action by industry to develop a range of new ozone and climate-friendly alternatives.
But after five days of intense discussions consensus could not be reached and the issue will now come before the UN climate convention meeting taking place in Copenhagen next month.
Several countries at the meeting considered proposed action under the Montreal Protocol on HFCs to be premature in advance of the Copenhagen climate meeting.
Other concerns during the five days of talks circled around the legal aspects of acting to phase-down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol when they are currently controlled under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) emission reduction treaty, the Kyoto Protocol.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said: "The Montreal Protocol continues to be a highly successful treaty in terms of its protection and repair of the ozone layer and its contribution to combating climate change. There will clearly be many who will be disappointed that nations could not see a way forward on the specific issue of HFCs at the meeting Egypt. All eyes will now be on Copenhagen to see if an initiative there by the European Union wins support."
"What perhaps was clear in Port Ghalib is that the even wider issues and negotiations surrounding Copenhagen are sending ripples into other multilateral negotiations like the Montreal Protocol. Clearly the sooner the international community seals the deal on climate change, the sooner other related agreements can move forward," he said.
Decisions, however, were made at the 21st Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on a number of other key issues.
Marco González, Executive Secretary of UNEP's Ozone Secretariat said: "The 21st Meeting of the Parties was very successful in terms of addressing important and sensitive issues for developing countries, in particular those related to the future supply of pharmaceutical-grade chloroflurocarbons, or CFCs, and in terms of the issue of the environmentally sound management of banks and stockpiles of ozone-depleting substances."
In 2010 the treaty will have totally phased-out the use of CFCs with the exception of some limited exemptions for purposes such as metered dose inhalers used by asthmatics.
But there is concern over both the scale and size of stockpiled banks of CFCs held, for example in old and retired equipment, and the potential for these gases to leak out into the atmosphere if not safely and swiftly destroyed.
Mobilizing additional funds to carry out the destruction and to assist in the export and destruction from developing countries with low amounts to ones with the necessary destruction facilities will be part of a special discussion in 2010.
Meanwhile, the meeting also moved on the issue of quarantine and pre-shipment. Under the Montreal Protocol the ozone-damaging chemical methyl bromide is controlled for various purposes such as fumigating soils.
But it is not regulated as a pest-controller for international shipments of commodities, including in wooden-pallets.
There has been concern that the use of methyl bromide is rising for these uncontrolled purposes and contributing to depletion of the ozone layer.
Over 70 Parties to the Protocol stated that they are using methyl bromide for these purposes. But in Port Ghalib it emerged that over 30 who once used methyl bromide for quarantine and pre-shipment have now reduced their use to zero.
The meeting requested the Montreal Protocol's experts to report back next year on alternatives to methyl bromide for several key quarantine and pre-shipment uses including for sawn timber and wood packaging material and grains and similar foodstuffs.
The meeting accepted a decision encouraging governments to consider adopting national laws to promote a transition to alternatives.
Notes to Editors:
The 21st Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol http://ozone.unep.org/Meeting_Documents/mop/21mop/index.shtml
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