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October 1, 2007

Mulroney urges more action on climate change

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney said Sunday night the world's countries should mark the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol with a new agreement that will slash greenhouse gases.

Mulroney was in Montreal to deliver the keynote speech of this week's United Nations conference marking marking the 20th anniversary of the protocol, in which 191 countries agreed to ban ozone-depleting substances.

"It doesn't really matter whether the process is called Kyoto or something else, as long as we are addressing the urgency of global warming," Mulroney said.

The Montreal Protocol, signed 20 years ago Sunday, aims to cut down on emissions of chemicals that deplete the ozone layer, which shields Earth from ultraviolet solar radiation that can cause skin cancer and other ailments.

To mark the anniversary, the countries that signed it will be taking part in a conference that starts today and runs until Friday. It's hoped that the conference will result in a commitment to further reduce ozone-depleting substances.

Mulroney pointed out the Montreal Protocol has been called the most successful international agreement by former United Nations secretary general Kofi Anan.

The treaty is considered a raging success because it mapped a way to cut production of ozone-depleting substances. So far, 191 countries have signed this pact, and have phased out more than 95 per cent of ozone-depleting substances. One of the gases banned as a result of the agreement was chlorofluorocarbons, which were present in aerosol sprays.

Mulroney said as a result of the protocol, a large hole in the ozone over Antarctica is now on the mend.

"It was the first concerted action on climate change," said Mulroney, who last year was named by leading environmentalists as Canada's greenest prime minister. "At the end of the last century, it foretold the great global issue of this century."

There is much optimism among the participants that this year's conference will result in an agreement to ban gases called hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are detrimental to the ozone and contribute to climate change. Those gases are present in refrigerators and air conditioners.

The United States is pushing for all signatories of the Montreal Protocol to ratify an agreement to phase out HCFCs over a period of 10 years.

It's believed such an agreement would have a greater impact on global warming than the Kyoto Protocol on climate change because the U.S. has not signed on to that pact. Developing countries such as China and India are also exempt from Kyoto's pact to cut on greenhouse gas emissions.

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