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Major step in protecting the ozone layer

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World governments meeting in Montreal last week agreed to freeze production of the ozone depleting substances hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) in 2013 and bring forward the final phase-out date of these chemicals by ten years. Industrialised countries also pledged to provide 'stable and sufficient' funds to help developing countries meet the accelerated phase-out deadline.

The accelerated phase out is expected to restore the ozone layer, which filters out damaging levels of ultra violet light, a few years earlier than originally estimated.

'Governments from all countries, developed and developing, have achieved a major step forwards in protecting the ozone layer and at the same time combating climate change in an effective way', says Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director at the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen.

HCFCs are chemicals replacing more ozone-damaging chemicals such as CFCs (chloroflurocarbons) in air conditioning and some forms of refrigeration equipment and foams. CFCs are already being phased out under earlier decisions. There is mounting evidence that HCFCs contribute to global warming. These gases are not covered by the Kyoto Protocol which does address all other main greenhouse gases from human activities. Thus apart from helping restoring the ozone layer the phasing out of HCFCs also reduces global greenhouse gas emissions and helps tackling climate change.

The agreement to accelerate the phase out happened under the 20 year-old UN Montreal Protocol, a treaty to protect the Earth’s ozone layer.

Developed countries agreed to reduce production and consumption by 2010 by 75 per cent and by 90 per cent by 2015 with final phase out in 2020. Developing countries have agreed to cut production and consumption by 10 per cent in 2015; by 35 per cent by 2020 and by 67.5 per cent by 2025 with a final phase-out in 2030. Governments also agreed an initial 2009 quota for critical use exemptions of the banned ozone-depleting pesticide methyl bromide.

For more information see the UNEP ozone secretariat website.

See also the EEA website on climate change.

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100