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Secretary-General lauds push to hasten phase-out of ozone-depleting compounds

Secretary-General lauds push to hasten phase-out of ozone-depleting compounds

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed this weekend’s agreement by the signatories to the Montreal Protocol – the United Nations-backed treaty to curb the release of harmful substances into the atmosphere – to accelerate the freeze and phase-out of a chemical compound which accelerates both ozone layer damage and climate change.

Participating countries, meeting to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Protocol, signed up to halt the production of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) in 2013 and push forward their elimination by ten years.

The acceleration may also assist in restoring the health of the ozone layer – the high flying gas that filters out damaging levels of ultra-violet light – by several years.

The compound emerged as replacement chemicals in the 1990s for air conditioning, some forms of refrigeration equipment and foams, following an earlier decision to eliminate older and more ozone-damaging chemicals known as CFCs or chlorofluorocarbons.

“The Secretary-General is pleased that this historic agreement was reached on the eve of the High-Level Event on Climate Change convened by him on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly,” his spokesperson said in a statement, referring to today’s largest-ever gathering of world leaders on the issue.

Mr. Ban stressed that global efforts to protect the ozone layer and to address climate change are mutually supportive.

He also pointed out that this weekend’s agreement includes a commitment to sufficient fund the strategy of phasing out HCFCs, and voiced hope that Member States will tackle the issue of greenhouse gas emissions with the “same urgency and boldness.”

In a related development, the Secretary-General said today that time is running out in halting climate change, which he has identified as one of his top priorities.

Global warming’s “impact, if unchecked, could be devastating if not catastrophic over the coming decades,” he wrote in an op-ed published in the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore and elsewhere. “We know what we have to do. We have affordable measures and technologies to do it. We must begin to attack the problem right now.”

The high-level dialogue on climate change he convened today is “a political call to action, a time for all countries, big and small, to grasp the moral imperative of tackling climate change with a new urgency, and to begin to understand our mutual self-interest in doing so.”

While industrialized countries – responsible for creating a bulk of the problem – have the greatest responsibility to reduce emissions, developing countries must be encouraged to join the effort while simultaneously stimulating economic activity and wiping out poverty, he said.

That is why decisive action is crucial, he noted. “Business as usual will not do,” he stated.

At the upcoming major summit in Bali, Indonesia, in December, “governments must work with urgency and creativity to put a negotiating framework in place,” he said. “We need a new and comprehensive multilateral accord on climate change that all nations can embrace.”

The Bali meeting 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.

Mr. Ban has emphasized in the past that a successor pact must be ready for ratification three years before that date to allow countries to make it law in time.

“For all of us, this is a defining moment,” he said in today’s op-ed. “We all have a historical responsibility to future generations. Our grandchildren will be our judges.”