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BANGKOK, Thailand (May 19, 2002 - PINA Nius Online)---The Pacific Island nations have been given a major boost in their efforts to phase out ozone-depleting substances, as required under the Montreal Protocol.

A meeting in Nadi, Fiji, this week will plan implementation of the first "regional-scale" ozone-depleting substance phase out strategy to be approved by the protocol’s Multilateral Fund.

The Fund’s Executive Committee allocated US$ 880,000 million for the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)-managed project at its meeting in Canada in March.

The project will enable the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Palau, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu to completely phase out the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) by the end of 2005.

CFCs and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), used in refrigeration and air-conditioning, and methyl bromide, a fumigant in quarantine and pre-shipment applications, deplete the ozone layer. This is the natural shield in the earth’s upper atmosphere that filters out harmful UV rays from the sun.

Pacific Islands countries currently consume about 50.6 tons of CFCs annually.

Fiji halted its use in 2000. The Cook Islands and Niue are currently preparing to ratify the Protocol, with assistance from New Zealand.

In approving the strategy the committee noted:

UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said: "The way the world community responded to the threat of ozone depletion is a bench mark for environmental achievement.

"Fifteen years on from the scientific discovery of the ozone hole over Antarctica we are now phasing out ODS in practical ways in the smallest and most-isolated developing countries, having successfully halted production and consumption in the Western world."

Mr. Toepfer said it provided a timely lesson about how complex global environmental challenges can be met through cooperation.

"We need international commitment, backed up by partnerships, practical action programs, and adequate funding. These are the outcomes we will be looking for from the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in August."

The ozone initiative follows another UNEP-backed meeting in Nadi last week aimed at addressing the most pressing environmental threat facing small island states.

Finance ministers from seven Pacific Island countries, senior officials, donors and scientific experts explored how adaptation strategies for changes in climate and sea level could be incorporated into national economic planning.

This week's workshop is jointly organized by UNEP, the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Australia and New Zealand and will be held at the Fiji Mocambo Hotel.

The regional strategy was developed by UNEP, with SPREP, Australia and New Zealand.

The strategy includes:

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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