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Worldwide progress in ozone talks.

Worldwide progress in ozone talks

Thirty-one nations meeting in Genevalast week agreed in principle to freeze and eventually reduce the production of some chemicals that attack stratospheric ozone. At issue are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) -- synthetic compounds used in refrigeration, foam production and other products. These chemicals are thought to deplete stratospheric ozone, which shields life on earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation (SN: 11/15/86, p. 308).

The proposed protocol, says Richard E.Benedick, the U.S. representative to the recent Geneva talks, is a "landmark international agreement. It's the first time the countries of the world are in the process of agreeing to take an action to control potentially dangerous chemicals before there's actual evidence of damage."

For several years, the United nationsEnvironment Programme has been shepherding the negotiations of protocols, or specific schedules of international CFC controls, under the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. Benedick says he is optimistic that a final protocol agreement will be concluded this year. A diplomatic meeting is scheduled to take place in Montreal this September.

According to Benedick, the protocoldraft calls for a 1990 freeze of the production of at least two CFCs, CFC-11 and CFC-12, at 1986 levels. It then proposes a 20 percent production cut in 1992 and gives signatories the option of voting for an additional 30 percent cut in the late 1990s. Delegates still have to negotiate an exact timetable and which specific chemicals are to be included in the final agreement.

Benedick says the working text is consistentwith the three principles expounded by U.S. representaives going into the talks: a near-term freeze, a long-term reduction of production levels of up to 95 percent and periodic reevaluations in light of emerging scientific data.

The United States, which has been oneof the countries pushing for tighter international CFC controls, banned the nonessential use of CFCs in aerosols in 1978. On May 1, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was scheduled to announce whether additional U.S. regulations are warranted. (EPA had agreed to consider further controls as part of a settlement in a suit brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council.) But last week EPA and NRDC together asked for an extension of the deadline so that discussions between the two parties could continue. According to an EPA spokesman, the agency also did not want to jeopardize the international negotiations with any new unilateral U.S. policy.
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Author:Weisburd, Stefi
Publication:Science News
Date:May 9, 1987
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