Ozone Meeting Calls to Co-ordinate Ozone-Climate Action and End CFC Smuggling

13 July 1998

At the 17th Meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, held last week in Geneva, Switzerland, environmental officials called for immediate actions against the growing illegal trade in banned substances. Officials also called for increased co-operation between United Nations bodies working on the issue of climate change. Last week's meeting was held in advance of the Tenth Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, which will take place in November in Cairo. In Geneva, environmental officials also asked for scientific co-operation between experts on ozone depletion and experts on climate change.

The need for such co-operation is evident in the fact that so-called ozone-safe substitutes for chlorofluorcarbons (CFCs) (CFCs are known to contribute to global warming), such as HFCs and PFCs, are urged under the Montreal Protocol, while actively discouraged under the December 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change. HFCs and PFCs have been found to contribute to climate change. This environmental conundrum must be addressed as developing countries begin to phase out CFC use and look for available substitutes. China, India and Russia are the world's largest producers of CFCs.

The open-ended Working Group also looked at ways to set up a trade-registration system aimed at curbing illegal trade in CFC gasses, worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Environmental officials fear the already large illegal trade in CFCs could increase once developing countries are forced to use more expensive substances.

The World Meteorological Orgnisation (SMO) and UNEP announced last month that measures taken by the international community to protect the ozone layer are beginning to bear fruit, although it might not be possible to detect firm signs of ozone recovery before another 20 years due to natural atmospheric variability. A full recovery of the earth's ozone shield could not be expected before the middle of the next century, UNEP and WMO officials said.

"Tougher measures called for to protect Earth's ozone layer," FINANCIAL TIMES, July 10, 1998; Ozone Protection Measures Bearing Fruit, IPS, June 22, 1998; Fresh Hopes for Ozone Recovery, PANAFRICAN NEWS AGENCY, June 23, 1998.

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