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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999



Item #d97oct46

The Ninth Conference of Parties, held Sep 9-17, 1997, in Montreal, fell on the tenth anniversary of the ozone protection agreement. Speakers at the meeting called the Protocol a "qualified success," and delegates agreed to set new limits on methyl bromide and to take steps to control the growing black market in ozone-depleting substances.

Methyl bromide: Industrial countries will accelerate their phaseout of methyl bromide to 2005. Although the U.S. and Canada had pushed for 2001, opposition came from southern European nations. (See New Scientist, p. 12, Sep. 20, 1997.) Developing countries for the first time agreed to a 20 percent reduction by 2002 and a total phaseout by 2015, and will receive funding to help meet these deadlines. Prior to the meeting, some of the scientists on a technical advisory committee accused U.N. bureaucrats of altering their report to create an overly optimistic outlook for finding substitutes for methyl bromide, suggesting that pressure form the U.S. for an early phaseout was involved. The controversy is discussed in New Scientist (p. 4, Aug. 30); a rebuttal from the Ozone Secretariat appears on p. 52 of the Sep. 27 issue.

CFC smuggling is a growing problem. (See Nature, p. 219, Sep. 18; New Scientist, pp. 16-17, Aug. 30; REPORTS/MONTREAL PROTOCOL, this Global Climate Change Digest issue--Oct. 1997.) To help counteract it, delegates established a licensing system that would allow customs and police officials to track trade in CFCs and detect unlicensed trade. In addition, industrial countries are to voluntarily ban the sale of stockpiles of virgin CFCs for most uses, because much of the black market trade involves virgin CFCs being sold as recycled material.

HCFCs: The European Union tried to accelerate the phaseout of HCFCs, but opposition from countries including the U.S. and Australia resulted in no action. Shortly before the meeting, news broke of an outbreak of liver disease at a Belgian smelter that resulted from exposure to a mixture of HCFCs leaking from an air conditioning unit. This report stunned government and industry officials, but does not jibe with experience in the U.S., according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (See Chem. Eng. News, p. 8, Aug. 25, 1997; Chem. & Industry, p. 670, Sep. 1; Intl. Environ. Rptr., p. 835, Sep. 3.) The original report appeared in The Lancet, a medical journal (pp. 556-559, Aug. 23, 1997).

Concerning the success of the Protocol to date, see REPORTS/MONTREAL PROTOCOL (this Global Climate Change Digest issue--Oct. 1997); and Chem. Eng. News (p. 9, Sep. 22). The Sep. 3 issue of Intl. Environ. Rptr. has a lengthy analysis by its staff writers (pp. 840-852), and an essay by K.M. Sarma, head of UNEP's ozone secretariat (pp. 853-856).

The next scientific assessment of ozone depletion should be completed in 1998; the next Conference of Parties is in 1999. For general accounts of the latest meeting or background information see Nature (p. 319, Sep. 25, 1997); Intl. Environ. Rptr. (pp. 903-905, Oct. 1; pp. 861-862, Sep. 17); and Global Environ. Change Rep. (pp. 1-3, Sep. 26; pp. 1-3, Sep. 12). For further information contact the Ozone Secretariat, UNEP, POB 30552, Nairobi, Kenya (tel: 254 2 623 885; fax: 254 2 521 930; e-mail:; WWW:

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