Parties to the UN Montreal protocol on the protection of the ozone layer have agreed for the first time to consider action to reduce emissions of powerful greenhouse gases being used as substitutes for substances that deplete the ozone layer. Meeting in Cairo, Montreal protocol parties decided to ask an expert panel to examine how the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs) could be minimised. The panel is due to report its findings in one year's time. "For the first time we are seeing the emergence of an integrated approach to the global atmosphere," UN Environment Programme (UNEP) director Klaus Töpfer said yesterday. He warned that warming of the lower atmosphere as a result of climate change could cool the stratosphere, which would exacerbate the problem of ozone depletion. The Cairo meeting also agreed to strengthen action against countries failing to comply with phase-out deadlines for production of ozone-depleting chemicals. These include Russia, eight other former Soviet Union states, China and India. Finally, parties recommended national management strategies to be adopted to reduce emissions of halons. In contrast to dwindling atmospheric concentrations of CFCs in recent years, halon concentrations have continued to rise, partly due to their longer atmospheric lifetimes but also because they are sometimes still released from fire extinguishing systems.
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