UN-backed conference ends with push to protect ozone, combat climate change

22 September 2007 – An historic agreement to tackle the twin challenges of protecting the ozone layer and combating climate change has been agreed by governments meeting in Montreal on the 20th anniversary of a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) treaty established to control the release of harmful substances into the atmosphere.

Participating countries signed up to an accelerated freeze and phase-out of substances known as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) under the pact, according to UNEP.

The decision, including an agreement that sufficient funding will be made available to achieve the strategy, follows mounting evidence that HCFCs contribute to global warming, the agency said.

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

Governments meeting in Montreal ended their meeting on Friday with an agreement to freeze production of HCFCs in 2013 and bring forward the final phase-out date of these chemicals by 10 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 a few years.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said the meeting’s outcome is an “important and quick win” for combating climate change.

“The precise and final savings in terms of greenhouse gas emissions could amount to several billions of tonnes, illustrating the complementarities of international environmental agreements,” he said.

Mt. Steiner said the spotlight now moves to New York where, on Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is hosting a summit meeting on climate change.

The gathering aims to build confidence in the run up to the UN Climate Convention negotiations scheduled for Bali, Indonesia, in December. That meeting will be tasked with hammering out an international greenhouse gas emissions reductions agreement to kick in after 2012, when the current legally binding Kyoto Protocol is set to expire.

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