New deal to speed up ozone recovery

International governments have pledged to strengthen a treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that deplete the ozone layer and contribute to climate change.

The 191 signatories of the Montreal Protocol, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last week, agreed on Friday to phase-out hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) ten years earlier than originally scheduled.

The decision will reduce emissions by the equivalent of up to 25billion tons of carbon – five times more than the Kyoto Protocol will do in initial reduction period from 2008 to 2012.

Under the new agreement, developed countries have to achieve a 75% reduction by January 2010, rising to 90% by 2015, and phase out the use of HCFCs by 2020.

Developing countries will have to freeze the use and production of HCFCs by 2013 – two years ahead of the original timetable – and phase them out altogether by 2030.

Experts believe the decision, reached after seven days of negotiations, will advance the recovery of the ozone layer by several years.

Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, which coordinated a year-long effort to educate the parties about the climate potential of the Montreal Protocol, said: “This historic decision marks the first time both developed and developing countries have agreed to mandatory climate reductions.

“This is a big boost for the post-2012 climate negotiations.”

He added: “Our success this week should give us the courage we need to move forward with a strong post-Kyoto climate agreement, starting in December in Bali.

“It also gives us some key lessons to consider as we design the post-Kyoto climate regime, including that a Montreal-type regulatory approach can work effectively and efficiently to deliver real climate reductions.”

The 1987 Montreal Protocol was set up after scientists discovered that chemicals used in aerosols, refrigeration and firefighting had created a hole in the ozone layer.

Research has since revealed that the reduction of HCFCs and related chemicals will also reduce global warming.

Kate Martin

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