At an intergovernmental meeting in Montreal, Canada in March, participants from 114 countries voted to grant limited 'critical use exemptions' to 11 developed countries facing the 2005 deadline for phasing out methyl bromide.
At an intergovernmental meeting in Montreal, Canada in March, participants from 114 countries voted to grant limited ’critical use exemptions’ to 11 developed countries facing the 2005 deadline for phasing out methyl bromide.
The exemptions are intended to give farmers, fumigators and other users of methyl bromide additional time to adopt cost-effective substitutes for this pesticide, which is used as a soil fumigant on crops such as tomatoes, strawberries, melons, peppers, cucumbers and flowers.
Methyl bromide damages the stratospheric ozone layer which protects all living things from too much solar radiation. Increased radiation leads to more skin cancers and eye cataracts; it also damages plants and animals, including the plankton that sustain the marine food chain.
Under the Montreal Protocol, developed countries had agreed to halt consumption of methyl bromide by 1 January 2005. For developing countries the schedule started with a 2002 freeze and continues with reductions of 20 per cent by 2005 and 100 per cent by 2015.
Under the latest agreement, the 11 developed countries (Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, the UK and the US) have received exemptions to the phase-out totalling 13 438 metric tons of methyl bromide for 2005.
In addition to agreeing the exemptions for 2005, the meeting launched a process for elaborating more detailed procedures and reporting requirements for requesting and granting future exemptions. The process seeks to define more rigorously the economic factors that justify an exemption.
’The high demand for exemptions to the methyl bromide phase out shows that governments and the private sector will have to work much harder to speed up the development and spread of ozone-friendly replacements,’ said Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme. ’The best way for governments to protect the integrity of the Montreal Protocol is to send a powerful signal to both producers and users that methyl bromide does not have a future,’ said Toepfer.