Friday, 31 August 2012

The Montreal Protocol – UNIDO rises to the ozone challenge

2012 marks the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

From 6-14 September 2012, UNIDO is organizing a week-long event at its headquarters in Vienna to celebrate the success in achieving reductions that will protect the atmosphere for generations to come.

The Montreal Protocol is a milestone treaty, adopted in 1987, which has since been ratified by 197 countries - it is the first ever international agreement to achieve universal ratification.  It is considered crucial in the efforts to restore and protect the ozone layer by phasing-out various substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion.  

“Ozone-depleting substances are everywhere – in industry, in our gardens, in each individual household there is a threat to the air we breathe,” says UNIDO’s Montreal Protocol branch director, Sidi Menad Si Ahmed. “Which explains the diversity of UNIDO’s projects under the Montreal Protocol. We are working in every corner of the world – from China and Indonesia, to Iran, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, to Mexico helping local governments and industries upgrade technologies and become more efficient, cost effective and environmentally friendly.”

Refrigerants, blowing agents in the plastic foam industry, propellants for asthma inhalers, pesticides – some 25 years ago, all of these posed a serious threat to the ozone layer, but not anymore. The technologies are now in place to make sure they no longer harm the ozone layer.

“The strategy is simple,” explains Si Ahmed. “By offering proper training, we introduce alternative technologies which not only keep the air clean, but also raise productivity and efficiency in manufacturing.”

Once the governments of developing countries identify companies that require assistance in eliminating ozone depleting substances from their production cycle, they contact UNIDO. Together they find the solutions, and introduce advanced techniques and technological processes in line with international standards.

So far, over 100 countries have benefited from UNIDO's support in phasing out ozone depleting substances.

Here are just a few examples of how UNIDO is implementing the Montreal Protocol.

Promoting the adoption of non-chemical alternatives to methyl bromide

UNIDO’s environmental project carried out over the past decade in Morocco allowed the country to meet its commitments under the Montreal Protocol and secured substantial benefits for the local farmers by phasing out one particular pesticide – methyl bromide – banned as an ozone-depleting substance.

Mounir Miku is a tomato farmer in Agadir, Morocco. He and other fellow growers have traditionally used methyl bromide as a pesticide 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 a pesticide that doesn’t damage the ozone layer.

“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.

“Breaking the chains of the methyl bromide bondage in Morocco was not an easy task, but UNIDO is used to challenges,” says Si Ahmed. To answer this particular challenge, UNIDO helped Moroccan government set up a Technology Transfer Centre in Agadir, where farmers can learn about alternative technologies and how to use them. The centre is one of many set up by UNIDO in different parts of the world in partnership with national governments. They all pursue one main goal – the successful implementation of the Montreal Pprotocol.

The results of UNIDO’s work under the Montreal Protocol are indisputable for people like Mounir Miku, who proudly shows the “ECO” pesticide he was able to change to with UNIDO’s help. The product enables Moroccan farmers to export their production to Europe without any fear that it would be rejected for containing methyl bromide residues.

Refrigeration production upgraded to meet international environmental standards in China

Traditional refrigeration and air conditioning appliances are known to cause serious damage to the ozone layer due to the refrigerants they use – among them, the chemical substance, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The refrigerants can leak from the appliances, damaging the Earth’s ozone layer.

With technical support from UNIDO, Chinese companies participating in the project, like Zhejiang Huari Industry Investment Co., Ltd, located in the Hangzhen region, now use hydrocarbon technology - an organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon, which is a natural refrigerant.
Innovations have also been made to the traditional plastic foam, used for thermal insulation in refrigerators – another polluting substance containing CFCs. Today, the company instead uses CFC-free cyclopentane.

UNIDO has also assisted Chinese companies in redesigning compressors used for refrigeration as part of the phase-out of CFCs.

Jiaxipera Company in Jiaxin now meets all international standards. The company has increased its production from 600,000 compressors in 1996 to over 4 million units in 2010 (read related press release).

Ozone-friendly inhalers in Mexico

For many years the technology to replace the CFCs in the production of metered-dose inhalers was not even available in the most technologically advanced countries. Due to the deadline of the phase-out, this became an issue of survival for many small companies. “And as big pharmaceutical companies kept turning down calls for cooperation with UNIDO, the organization decided to trigger an innovative way of testing a new propellant with valve producers, which proved to be extremely successful, ” explained Si Ahmed.

A successful example is Mexico, where Laboratorious Silus was among several companies that agreed to use alternative techniques offered by UNIDO to produce new valves, designed to fit the new CFC-free blowing agent.

“They took a risk but it paid off,” says Si Ahmed. “The same technological approach is now used by companies manufacturing inhalers in China, Egypt and Iran.”

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.

As one of the main implementation agencies of the Montreal Protocol, UNIDO has helped in phasing-out more than one-third of ozone-depleting substances in the developing world.

For more information please contact:

Sidi Menad Si Ahmed
Branch Director  

To read more about UNIDO’s activities under the Montreal Protocol, please go here: 

UNIDO and the Montreal Protocol
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