UN official urges intensified action against ozone-depleting substances

13 September 2007

As representatives from almost 200 Governments prepare to gather next week in Montreal, Canada on the 20th anniversary of the United Nations-backed treaty to protect the world’s ozone layer, a senior UN official today called for intensified action to eliminate the use of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) which damage it.

In September 1987, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was agreed upon, and up to 191 States who are party to the treaty will attend a five-day conference kicking off on 17 September.

“The Montreal Protocol is without doubt one of the most successful multilateral treaties ever and I look forward to celebrating, in mid-September, two decades of achievement in the Canadian city where it was born,” said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Participants will discuss a recently-released UNEP report which details the benefits of accelerating the phase-out of HCFCs, chemicals used to replace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are more damaging to ozone.

Under the Montreal Protocol, HCFCs – which are widely used in refrigeration systems and air conditioners – are scheduled to be eliminated in developing countries in 2030 and in developing ones in 2040.

However, the new study points to the advantages of pushing the dates forward by a decade. Global greenhouse emissions could be slashed by more than 3.5 per cent, and the report notes that speeding up the transition to HCFC alternatives could stimulate technological advances as well as return ozone levels to health pre-1980 levels several years earlier.

The Montreal Protocol’s “success story is far from over with new and wide-ranging chapters still to be written,” Mr. Steiner said. “Indeed if governments adopt accelerated action on HCFCs, we can look forward to not only a faster recovery of the ozone layer, but a further important contribution to the climate change challenge.”

Events celebrating the 20th anniversary of the treaty will include special seminars and award ceremonies t recognize the achievements in raising awareness about ozone and the Montreal Protocol.

The celebration comes in advance of a high-level meeting on climate change to be convened in New York by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 24 September.

It is hoped these meetings will set the stage for the upcoming major December summit in Bali, Indonesia, which seeks to determine future action on mitigation, adaptation, the global carbon market and financing responses to climate change for the period after the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol – the current global framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – in 2012.


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