Ozone Accord Draws Praise and Concern

By Monastersky, R. | Science News, September 26, 1987 | Go to article overview

Ozone Accord Draws Praise and Concern


Monastersky, R., Science News


Ozone accord draws praise and concern

In the wake of last week's international agreement to dramatically cut the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the world's $2.2 billion CFC-production industry is scrambling to find substitutes for these chemicals, which are used in refrigeration, foam production and the cleaning of electronic parts.

The agreement, officially called a protocol, will force a 50 percent reduction in the use of CFCs by the end of the century. And while both industry and environmental groups criticize aspects of the agreement, all involved have hailed the international treaty as a necessary step to prevent the destruction of the life-protecting ozone layer.

"I think it's a landmark achievement of historical significance,' says U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Richard E. Benedick, who headed the ozone negotiations. Benedick points out that the protocol has managed to balance a number of complex scientific, economic and geographic factors.

Environmental organizations have also lauded the agreement itself as well as the administration's strong push for CFC controls. "It's an amazing accomplishment compared to where we were as short as a year ago,' says David Doniger, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C.

Signed in Montreal by diplomats from 23 nations, the protocol will take effect in 1989 only after 11 countries, representing two-thirds of global CFC consumption, have ratified it. It specifically calls for an immediate freeze on the use of the most damaging CFCs at the 1986 levels of consumption. In 1994, protocol signers must reduce consumption by 20 percent, and by 1999 they must cut CFC use to half their 1986 levels. The protocol also freezes but does not reduce the consumption of halons, a more destructive but less prevalent class of chlorine chemicals.

Trade provisions in the protocol encourage countries to sign the agreement by prohibiting the importation of CFCs and products containing CFCs from countries that have not signed. The protocol also provides slightly loosened consumption limits for developing nations.

Amid the praise, however, are voices of concern. Donifer cautions that the proposed reductions will slow but not stop the gradual accumulation of long-lived CFCs in the stratosphere and calls the protocol "a major half-step forward. …

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