A spokesperson at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency told edie that the ozone layer had been measured at 198 Dobson units on Tuesday 30 November, the lowest ever recording over Sweden. The normal level over Sweden at this time of year is usually 275 Dobson units.

“This type of thinning usually occurs during the spring time,” said the spokesperson. “It’s just as low as the ozone layer over the Antarctica.”

In early October, the spring time ozone concentrations – generally the time of year when the thinnest ozone is recorded – over Halley Bay in Antarctica were less than half what they were in the 1960s. Dr Paul Fraser of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation believes that such data should be used to create new urgency in international efforts to protect the ozone from ozone-depleting substances. “Based on the maximum predicted emissions of ozone depleting chemicals allowed under the Montreal Protocol, it will be at least the year 2050 before the ozone layer recovers. Global warming may further delay recovery by 10 to 20 years,” said Fraser.

In Beijing, the meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol and the Vienna Convention – the two international agreements to protect the ozone from ozone depleting substances (ODS) – has been characterised by uncertainty concerning the level of funding that will be provided to developing world countries and negotiations regarding how many new ODS should be scheduled for control or phase out.

At the outset, a working group recommended that the Multilateral Fund for 2000-2002 should be replenished to a level of $500 million. The group advised that although $306 million would be sufficient for developing world countries to comply with the minimum requirements of the Protocol (a freeze on CFC and halon production and consumption), a funding level of $500 million would allow for acceleration of phase outs between 2003 and 2005.

Hopes for $500 million for the Multilateral Fund were dashed early on, when the UK, representing the “Like-minded group” made up of the EU, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Switzerland and the US, stated its case for a $300 million fund. Negotiations have since produced two options – the basic offer of a fund set at $300 million and the other offering a higher sum linked to the introduction of concessional funding.

The EU has presented proposals for a phase out of HCFS – a series of chemicals that have often replaced banned CFCs – as well as the listing of bromochloromethane as a controlled ODS. EU negotiators are seeking some progress, without which they feel a Beijing Declaration – something China would like to see come out of the meeting – would not be worthwhile.

Addressing the High-Level Segment of the meeting, deputy executive director of the UN’s Environment Programme, Shafqat Khakakel urged delegates to sustain momentum in ozone layer protection. He pointed out successes – citing data that shows ozone depletion would have been 10 times greater at this stage if measures had not been taken – and said that fatigue and complacency should not be allowed to slow down progress.

Many environmental NGOs are dismayed by the lack of progress in adding new ODSs to the list of chemicals for elimination and have accused the UN of failing overcome political indifference and industry’s reluctance to take action.

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