The 189 member Governments of a United Nations-sponsored treaty to protect the world's ozone layer, which filters out ultraviolet solar rays that cause skin cancer and other ills, today finalized an agreement under which developed countries will reduce their use of an ozone-destroying pesticide.
Under the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, developed countries agreed to phase-out completely by 1 January, 2005, their controlled uses of methyl bromide, an effective fumigant and pesticide for strawberries, flowers and other high-value crops, but can request temporary exemptions to the deadline when there are no technically or economically feasible alternatives.
Today, during a week-long meeting in Montreal, they agreed to reduce their use of the fumigant in 2006 compared to 2005 by close to 20 per cent.
"The importance of today's decision is that it maintains the downward trend in methyl bromide use by developed countries," said Executive Director Klaus Toepfer of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), under whose auspices the Protocol was negotiated.
"This should send a positive signal to farmers and other users of methyl bromide that alternatives are increasingly available and should be adopted as quickly as possible. It should also encourage developing countries to stay on track with their own efforts to phase-out this harmful substance," he added.
As a result of today's decision, developed countries will receive exemptions totalling 13,014 tons for 2006; in addition, a recommendation for approving another 269 tons has been forwarded to a December meeting for final decision. This compares with a total of 16,050 tons of exemptions received for 2005, representing close to a 20 per cent decline.
Meanwhile, the consumption of methyl bromide by developing countries has declined from a peak of 18,140 tons in 1998 to 11,858 tons in 2003. These countries have a 2015 deadline for a total phase-out.