Ozone layer left at risk by new global agreement

Revised controls on ozone-depleting substances were agreed at an international meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol in Copenhagen in November. The global phase-out deadlines for most chemicals currently in large-scale use were brought forward - though these will mean little for EC industry, which has precious little time to complete the switch away from CFCs and halons and may face stiffer deadlines yet under EC rules to be completed next year. The most controversial element of the Copenhagen package allows a sharp increase in consumption of the HCFCs as "transitional" substitutes for the CFCs, apparently allowing major users such as the refrigeration and foam-blowing sectors to switch to these chemicals with assurance. But they would be unwise to conclude that further controls on HCFCs will not be forthcoming.

The urgent need to phase out ozone-depleting substances has been reinforced this year by alarming scientific reports pointing to record ozone depletion over Antarctica. Just days before the Copenhagen meeting opened, the World Meteorological Organisation announced yet another record - a seasonal average ozone deficiency of 12% over northern Europe, Russia and Canada, "an occurrence never before observed in more than 35 years of continuous ozon

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