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Climate talks in Montreal to take dual aim

by Staff Writers
Montreal (AFP) Sept 17, 2007
Representatives of 190 countries will meet in Montreal Monday for talks on the twin goals of combating global warming and restoring the ozone layer.

The discussions come as part of a UN-sponsored conference marking the 20th anniversary of signing of the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty seeking to end production of chemical compounds that contribute to ozone depletion.

Signatories of the Montreal Protocol, which cut emissions of chemicals harmful to Earth's ozone layer, hope to find a way to eliminate the hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) that opened a hole in the Antarctic ozone layer.

The UN sponsor of the talks says repair of the ozone layer will also help counter the warming of Earth's atmosphere, which has potentially disastrous effects on weather, sea levels, flora and fauna in coming years.

The United States and Europe were expected to call for an accelerated timetable for banning ozone-depleting chemicals, European officials said.

"For the European Union, the schedule for eliminating HCFCs must be pushed up by 10 years -- that will be the benchmark for deciding if the negotiations are successful," said French Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet ahead of the meeting.

"We have the agreement of the United States" for the amended timetable, she said.

The 1987 Montreal Protocol is one of the most successful international responses to a global problem, according to former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

Environmentalists hoped to repeat the success with the 1997 Kyoto protocol to cap emissions of so-called greenhouse gases, which gather in the atmosphere, and in the manner of a greenhouse allows the sun's rays in but does not allow the heat to escape.

But Kyoto, which expires in 2012, has not been adhered to by nations such as Canada, the United States, India and Austria. China is a signatory but is exempt due to its status as a developing nation.

Since the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the rise in emission of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, the Earth's temperatures have increased to an alarming degree, and global warming is already blamed for melting polar ice caps.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN program for the environment, said in an interview published Saturday that the fight against global climate change and the fight to restore the ozone layer are linked.

"The enormous challenge has still not been met, and it offers the international community the chance to make rapid gains both concerning the ozone layer and global climate change," Steiner told the Montreal daily.

HCFC and CFC chemical compounds, once widely used as refrigerants and propellants in aerosol cans, have been largely curtailed by multilateral agreements in the Protocol.

CFC emissions opened a large hole in the ozone layer in the Earth's upper atmosphere, allowing more of the sun's harmful ultra-violet radiation to enter and raising the specter of increased cases of skin-cancer and eye cataracts.

If production of HCFCs is halted and eliminated over the next 10 years the effect of global warming could be cut by 4.5 percent, Steiner said.

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Climate change and desertification two sides of same coin
Madrid (AFP) Sept 13, 2007
Climate change and desertification are two sides of the same coin and must be tackled together, according to participants at the Madrid conference on desertification.

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