Nations Agree to Accelerated "Freeze and Phase Out" of Climate-Damaging Chemicals


Photo credit: pagedooley

Following mounting evidence that hydrochloroflurocarbons (HCFCs) contribute to global warming, the world's governments signed up to an accelerated freeze and phase-out of HCFCs under the 20-year-old Montreal Protocol. The U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) treaty was established in 1987 to protect the planet's ozone layer from chemical degradation.

The 191 parties (190 countries, plus the European Commission) to the Montreal Protocol, meeting in the eponymous Canadian city on Saturday, agreed to freeze production of HCFCs in 2013, as well as to bring forward the final phase-out date of the chemicals by 10 years, a move that may help in restoring the health of the ozone layer. Under the new agreement, developed countries will reduce production and consumption by 75 percent by 2010, and by 90 percent by 2015, while completely phasing the chemicals out in 2020.

Developing countries have agreed to cut production and consumption by 10 percent in 2015, by 35 percent by 2020, and by 67.5 percent by 2025, with the final phase-out deadline set for 2030.

John Baird, Canada's environmental minister, calls the Montreal Protocol the "most successful environmental agreement to date."

Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Montreal Protocol could serve as a example for future international mobilization. "I believe the agreement and the spirit of Montreal can build confidence in the United Nations as a platform for negotiating effective agreements for addressing the environmental challenges of our time," says Achim Steiner, U.N. Under-Secretary-General and UNEP executive director, in a press release.

He adds: "Montreal underlies that when nations are united they can achieve a great deal and on multiple fronts. It also underlines how international treaties—in this case the U.N.'s Montreal Protocol and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change—can deliver far more when we build on the scientific consensus and mobilize the technological and economic means to act."

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