Small is important

OUR PLANET 9.2 - Ozone

Small is important


outlines the special problems faced by low consumers of ozone-depleting substances, and calls for special measures

Over 70 countries consume less than 350 tonnes of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) each year. These 'low volume consuming countries' (LVCs) and 'very low volume consuming countries' (VLVCs) - which use very much less than this amount - thus form a significant proportion of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol. They face specific problems in formulating and implementing phase-out action plans, particularly because projects have only a poor cost-effectiveness. They need financial and technical assistance, in accordance with the inherent principle of equality of consideration of all Parties under
the Protocol.

houseODS consumption in LVCs and VLVCs is mainly restricted to servicing and maintenance in refrigeration and air-conditioning, such as in the hotel industry and commercial refrigeration, including cold storage: this is increasing rapidly as many of these countries achieve sustained economic growth. They also have a small consumption in aerosol filling units, and in recharging of Halon 1211 and 1301. There is limited use of methyl bromide in soil fumigation, quarantine and preshipment.

These countries face special barriers to phasing out ODS - apart from those affecting all developing countries - including lack of information and training, lower cost-effectiveness of projects and lower economies of scale, lower safety and health standards, the lack of interest of technology and product suppliers, and the lack of human and other resources at all levels. As a result they were long left out of the mainstream. The cost-effectiveness of their projects and their insignificant consumption did not interest the world community at large and the Executive Committee in particular.

A paper by UNEP's Industry and Environment office (UNEP IE) - Innovative Approaches for the Phasing Out of ODS in Low ODS Consuming Countries - and some strong voices at the sixth and seventh meetings of the Parties have been instrumental in bringing LVCs into the mainstream. Projects considered by the Executive Committee have now been exempted from the cost-effectiveness threshold.

Data essential

UNEP IE continues to work with LVCs and VLVCs to put the recommendations in the paper into effect and further develop them: concrete observations on successes and failures can only be made after sufficient data have been collected on the actual implementation of the new approaches.

Meanwhile, the first control measure for developing countries is just around the corner in 1999. Yet there must be at least 30 LVCs and VLVCs that have not yet started preparing their Country Programmes: many LVCs/VLVCs have not even begun to carry out their survey on ODS consumption to get real data.

Compliance with the 1999 control measure could be virtually impossible for these countries if they do not know their actual consumption well ahead of the deadline. This could also result in an increase in imports of obsolete technology, equipment or domestic appliances, further complicating phase-out plans in the future. Serious efforts will have to be made by the implementing agencies of the Protocol to build up a state of preparedness in LVCs/VLVCs by carrying out initial ODS consumption surveys, even if the Country Programmes have to come later. Indeed, this survey would constitute over half of the Country Programme preparation exercise for many of these countries, because the areas of intervention for ODS use are limited to a few sectors.

UNEP IE has an innovative proposal for several LVCs/VLVCs to produce Country Programmes together. This is quite workable, the more so since it will produce an entrainment effect by the better disposed countries in the group. But the affected sectors are the lifeblood of the economies of certain countries and so phase-out policies should be geared towards harming them as little as possible.

In many cases, it may be difficult to persuade economic operators that CFCs will become scarcer in the very near future or that their prices will increase several-fold. Most will know that they will continue to be available from developing country producers, so there may be quite a strong temptation to stick to the status quo until 2005. Apart from a few big cold storage companies, most commercial refrigeration installations will be working on the fringe of profitability, and will be unable to make initial outlays for future returns. Financial assistance must be considered to help key refrigeration plants to retrofit: this would involve minimal incremental costs but would be an incentive to move in the right direction.

men workingImport control, a direct means of curbing ODS use, is probably the only measure that can be put in place quite rapidly in any LVC/VLVC without too much disruption to trade. Most of these countries will have some sort of import control legislation and mechanism in place, if only to collect revenue. Individual ODS products could be tracked and controlled with minimal adjustment to customs codes to align them with the harmonized system. Training would be needed for customs officers and the people who process permits; this could be done easily by grouping many countries together, particularly important where countries have common boundaries and where smuggling could be a problem.

Import control should also cover equipment containing ODS. In particular, the importing of obsolete technologies should be banned as quickly as possible.

Customs tariffs could be used to encourage operators to move towards phase-out. Disincentives should be removed. There are rare cases where duties on substitute refrigerants are higher than on CFCs; this should be reversed. Many LVCs/VLVCs could quickly curb their CFC consumption by replacing these compounds with the substitute refrigerants that are continually being developed.

Institutional strengthening projects, as approved by the Executive Committee, may not be fully applicable. The Multilateral Fund (MLF) should allow room for adaptation to local circumstances: a monolithic approach may mean unnecessary use of funds in such projects and in Country Programme preparation. There should be a complete review of these in the interests both of LVC/VLVC countries and of the MLF itself.

Administration and legislative measures are essential and effective in phasing out ODS. Use of these substances depends on import and can therefore be regulated. Government policies should make it clear that such measures will be formulated, but the lack of legal draughtsmanship and confidence are often impediments in practice.

The latest UNEP IE Guidebooks - Monitoring Imports of Ozone-Depleting Substances and Regulations to Control Ozone-Depleting Substances - produced with the collaboration of the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Swedish International Development Authority - provide interesting and useful guidance.

The MLF must provide equipment and facilities to allow these countries to dedicate personnel to follow up on implementing Protocol measures. More use should be made of Regional Networks of ODS Officers to provide training for implementing a minimum package of measures where Country Programmes have not been formulated. The various Regional Networks have had a tremendous catalytic effect and more resources would produce even greater impact.

At the risk of being over-simplistic, a minimal standard set of measures can be applied across the board to many LVCs/VLVCs. These measures, some of which have been touched upon above, are well known to the implementing agencies, and they should be bold and courageous enough to promote them, even though they do not involve important amounts of funding. Their purpose is to help phase out ODS rather than to get business. They should make a special effort to bring these measures to all developing countries, particularly those who have yet to start their Country Programme preparation process. The Regional Networks should effectively supervise implementation. Only thus will LVCs/VLVCs be able to comply with the control measures with minimal disruption.

Sateeaved Seebaluck is Principal Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government and Environment, Mauritius. He holds a 1997 Ozone Award.

Complementary articles in other issues:
Issue on Atmosphere 1996
Ruben Mnatsakanian: A poisoned legacy (Chemicals) 1997
Frank Wania and Don Mackay: Global distillation (Chemicals) 1997

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