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Montreal environment forum to hasten HCFC phase-out: UN

by Staff Writers
Nairobi (AFP) Sept 13, 2007
A United Nations conference in Canada will next week consider ways to speed up the phasing out of ozone-depleting chemicals, the UN environment agency said Thursday.

Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer will gather for the ministerial meeting in Montreal September 17-21 during which means to hasten a ban on the use of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) will top discussions, it said.

HCFCs -- used mainly in refrigerators, aerosols, air conditioning units and fire-fighting equipment -- replaced the more damaging chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), but are being phased out under the 1987 Montreal Protocol.

Nine countries have presented six different proposals for consideration during the talks to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the protocol, agreed after growing international pressure followoing the emergence of a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica.

"... speeding up a freeze and phase-out of HCFCs and their related by-products could not only assist in the recovery of the ozone layer," Nairobi-based UN Environment Programme said in a statement.

"An acceleration could also play an important role in addressing another key environmental challenge; namely climate change."

The use of HCFCs is set to cease in developed countries in 2030 and in developing countries in 2040.

A speedy reduction over the next decade could result in cumulative emission reduction equivalent to between 18 to 25 billion metric tonnes of carbon, the agency said, citing a study.

On Wednesday, UN's World Meteorological Organisation said the ozone layer hole over the Antarctica was forming again but should remain below the 29.5 million square kilometres (11.39 million square miles) it reached last year.

The ozone provides a natural protective filter against harmful ultra violet rays from the sun, which can cause sunburn, cataracts, skin cancers and damage vegetation.

Its depletion is caused by extreme cold temperatures at high altitude and a particular type of pollution, mainly from HCFC and which have accumulated in the atmosphere.

"Indeed if governments adopt accelerated action on HCFCs, we can look forward to not only a faster recovery of the ozone layer, but a further important contribution to the climate change challenge," UNEP chief Achim Steiner said in the statement.

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Indian court says 'asbestos-laden' ship can be broken up
New Delhi (AFP) Sept 11, 2007
India's Supreme Court gave permission on Tuesday for shipbreakers to dismantle a former French cruise liner, the Blue Lady, that environmentalists say is lined with toxic asbestos.

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