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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Ozone Treaty Revisited

Air Date: Week of September 12, 1997

Delegates from around the world are meeting in Canada for a tenth anniversary assessment of the Montreal Protocol.-- the treaty governing the phase out of ozone depleters, like chloroflourocarbons Some delegates are upset that developing nations are still producing CFC's, and selling them illegally. But, others warn that the long term goal of a total, world ban on ozone depleting chemicals might be sidetracked by too much emphasis on CFC smuggling. David McLauchlin reports from Montreal.

Transcript

KNOY: Delegates from around the world are meeting in Canada for a tenth anniversary assessment of the Montreal Protocol. That's the treating governing the phase-out of ozone-depleting chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons, also called CFCs. The international black market in CFCs is one of the remaining obstacles to success of the treaty. Some delegates are upset that developing nations are still producing CFCs and selling them illegally. But others warn that the long-term goal of a total world ban on ozone-depleting chemicals might be sidetracked by too much emphasis on CFC smuggling.
David McLauchlin reports from Montreal.

MC LAUCHLIN: Graphic evidence of black market CFCs was gathered by a small London-based organization called the Environmental Investigation Agency. For the past year it posed as a broker willing to purchase ozone-depleting chemicals for sale worldwide and found they're readily available. According to the group, the biggest buyers are businesses in the European Union and the United States. Julian Newman is a spokesman for the Environmental Investigation Agency.

NEWMAN: During 1994 to 1996, southern Florida was flooded with illegal CFCs. During the period in the port of Miami, CFCs were second only to cocaine in terms of street value of contraband.

MC LAUCHLIN: Canadian officials estimate a truckload of 1,000 cylinders of CFCs can earn a smuggler a half a million US dollars. Julian Newman says most of the supply of black market CFCs originates in China.

NEWMAN: That's perfectly legal. Because under the Montreal Protocol they're classified as a developing country, so they can produce CFCs until the year 2010. And they're gearing up in production; they're producing more and more every year.

MC LAUCHLIN: Tom Land of the US Environmental Protection Agency coordinates US efforts against smuggling. His estimates placed the total quantity of ozone-depleting substances on the US black market at 20,000 tons. That's almost a third of the CFC inventory of the United States.He regards black market CFCs as a serious threat. He says together, 5 US agencies have made 33 arrests since 1994. But he says the problem will eventually take care of itself.

LAND: Obviously, people don't keep their cars forever. Eventually there will be no cars that use CFCs, and then there will be no more demand. Without demand, then anybody who still has the CFCs ends up with a useless commodity.

MC LAUCHLIN: Mr. Land and others say the problem of black market CFCs has to be balanced against another issue: the phase-out of methyl bromide. It's an agricultural chemical used worldwide and another potent ozone-depleting chemical. Mahadva Sharma is Executive Secretary of the UN Environmental Program. He says if too much pressure is put on developing countries to shut off supplies to the black market, the risk is they'll walk away from any deal banning methyl bromide.

SHARMA: Enrollment of 162 countries, virtually all conditions in the world, that has been and still is very essential for the success of this protocol agreement. As you know, it's a truly global problem. And it can be solved only if everyone is involved.

MC LAUCHLIN: Mr. Sharma points out that a freeze on CFC production in developing countries begins in 1999. He points out that the world has reduced ozone-depleting substances by 70% in the past 10 years. And he says if that progress can be maintained, the hole in the ozone layer will begin repairing itself by the middle of the next century. For Living on Earth, I'm David McLauchlin in Montreal.

 

 

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