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  • Poor nations get cash boost to save ozone

More than 100 governments have adopted a US$573-million funding package intended to help developing nations phase out the use and production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) — the main destroyer of the ozone layer.

The funds were agreed in Rome at a meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty signed in 1987 to eliminate the production and consumption of ozone-depleting chemicals. Under the protocol, developing countries must halve their consumption and production of CFCs by 2005 from average levels in 1995-1997.

"Completing the phase-out of CFCs by developing countries is the number one priority today for the Montreal Protocol," says Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, under whose auspices the agreement was negotiated. "Scientists believe that if — and only if — all countries meet their Montreal Protocol targets, the stratospheric ozone layer will stabilize and then return to full health within 50 years."

The money will be used to replenish the protocol's Multilateral Fund for 2003-2005. The fund, which is headquartered in Montreal and has already distributed about US$1.3 billion since it was set up in 1990, aims to help developing countries meet their CFC reduction targets by adopting ozone-friendly chemicals and processes.

For example, projects will be funded to phase out CFC consumption in industrial processes in Nigeria and the Philippines. The money will also help reduce CFC consumption in Indonesia's refrigeration industry, and to end all CFC production in Argentina.

An expert task force estimated earlier this year that developing countries would need between US$548 million and US$600 million to meet their 2005 targets. Developing countries, however, proposed a much higher figure of US$924 million.

CFCs have been widely used since the 1930s in refrigerators, air conditioners, foams and other applications. However in the 1970s it was discovered that, together with other chemicals such as halons and the fumigant methyl bromide, they destroy ozone molecules in the stratosphere that protect living organisms on the Earth’s surface from ultraviolet radiation.

Under the Montreal Protocol, developing countries were required to freeze their CFC levels in 1999. Data collected last year indicates that most developing countries have managed to achieve this. Developed countries phased out CFCs almost completely in 1996.

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