The Montreal Protocol is an international environment treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of a number of substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion.
Since 1989, a time table establishes the different phase-outs; for example, it has been agreed to initially phase-out hydro-chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) - a chemical compound containing hydrogen - by 2015, with a final phase-out by 2030.
In its daily work, UNIDO focuses on cost-effective ways to reduce ozone-depleting substances (ODS) such as freons, halons and chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), in the areas of refrigeration, plastic foams, halons, solvents, fumigants and aerosol.
“Once governments of developing countries identify companies that require assistance in eliminating ODS from their production cycle," says S.M. Si Ahmed, the Director of UNIDO’s Montreal Protocol branch, "they then approach UNIDO to find solutions that lead to the introduction of more advanced technological processes, in line with international standards.”
Helping farmers in Morocco compete on the EU market
Mounir Miku is a tomato farmer in Agadir, Morocco. He and other fellow growers have traditionally used a pesticide called methyl bromide for their tomato crops. Recently, they were informed that methyl bromide is known to deplete the ozone layer and that the Montreal Protocol demands the phase out and ban of methyl bromide by 2015.
At the same time, Mounir was informed that the European Union (EU) - traditionally one of the largest export markets for food products from Morocco - banned the use of methyl bromide as of March 2010. The farmers therefore urgently needed an alternative to methyl bromide that would allow them to continue growing and exporting their tomatoes.
As an implementing agency of the Montreal Protocol agreement, UNIDO stepped in to help provide the needed support to make the necessary changes and find alternatives.
With UNIDO’s help, Mounir was able to change to an eco-labeled ozone free pesticide.
“The fact that we managed to swiftly find alternatives was very important for the farmers. Our exports are now safe,” said Mounir.
UNIDO’s Montreal Protocol branch director, Si Ahmed, says that to date, more than 20 developing countries have benefited from the Organization’s expertise in developing and implementing methyl bromide demonstration and phase-out projects.
“UNIDO has also trained more than 150,000 farmers in different countries in the use of non-chemical alternatives to methyl-bromide. We have established training centres to assist farmers to adhere to new ozone friendly technologies. Alternatives presented are solar treatments, bio fumigation and steam,” says Si Ahmed.
Developing countries that requested UNIDO's assistance are now in full compliance with their Montreal Protocol obligations.
“For many companies in developing countries, the quality of baseline equipment is often very poor. UNIDO staff help companies acquire new technologies and also look at safety issues and maintenance,” explains Si Ahmed.
“Nowadays it is necessary to have certification and eco-labeling. We help the local companies understand the new environmentally friendly technologies and products and provide them with the tools so they can export,” says Si Ahmed.
Chinese companies upgrade refrigeration production to world standards to protect environment
Traditional refrigeration and air conditioning appliances are also causing environmental problems due to the refrigerants they use, including the chemical substance CFC. The refrigerants can leak from the refrigerators, damaging the earth’s ozone layer.
With the technical support of UNIDO, Zhejiang Huari Industry Investment Co., Ltd. in the Hangzhen region of China, which manufactures refrigerators, now uses hydrocarbon technology, an organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon. Aside from the refrigerant, the traditional foam used for thermal insulation in refrigerators also contains CFC. Today, the company uses cyclopentane to replace it, which is CFC free.
Another example is the Jiaxipera Company in Jiaxin, China, which employs some 1000 people in the production of six different compressor models used in domestic refrigeration. Compressors are primary components of refrigerators that drive the process of heat removal.
Although they do not contain the ozone depleting substance CFC themselves, the conversion of compressor manufacturers was an essential component of the phase-out of CFC used in refrigerators.
This is why Jiaxipera requested UNIDO’s assistance in redesigning its compressor products to accommodate the replacement of the CFC. The resulting products met the customer requirements and international standards and the company has increased its production from 600,000 compressors in 1996 to over 4 million units last year.
Developing ozone-friendly inhalers in Mexico
For many years the technology to replace the CFC in the production of metered-dose inhalers was not available, even in the most advanced countries. Due to the deadline of the phase out, this became an issue of survival for many small companies, including Laboratorious Silus, a small company in Mexico.
Relevant technologies were available, but pharmaceutical companies were not ready to share the technology for free. UNIDO decided to interact with the valve producers instead, because the valve of the metered-dose inhaler is one of the main components when a user inhales the product into the lungs.
An agreement was reached with a valve producer for a testing period. It was a challenge to make it all come together, but eventually, the production of new valves, which fit the new CFC-free blowing agent, was underway. The methodology is now used by companies manufacturing inhalers in China, Egypt and Iran, for example.
For the year 2009, UNIDO was ranked first by the Multilateral Fund (MLF) among implementing agencies (others include UNDP, UNEP, and the World Bank) for the Montreal Protocol.
Overall, the Montreal Protocol has offered invaluable lessons for policymakers, multilateral bodies and industry, with the technical assistance inputs from UNIDO. This year, this "green" alliance will be in even more demand, as 2010 marks the worldwide phase-out of ODS.