It’s hoped that the strategy will cut the price of disposal for chemicals such as hydrofluorocarbons and chlorofluocarbons to a third or less of the current market cost. Many armed forces already have competitively priced contracts in place for destroying ozone-damaging chemicals found as gases and foams in air-conditioning units and other types of military equipment. The plan is that civilian destruction programmes will benefit from these low-cost contracts, making them more attractive.

“The military in many countries have been at the forefront of efforts to phase-out ozone-depleting substances – their experience can be invaluable for developing countries facing similar challenges,” said Marco Gonzalez, executive secretary of the UN Environment Programme’s Ozone Secretariat.

The US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Defense are leading the initiative, which will include setting up an international “clearinghouse” to match supply and demand for destruction services and attempt to minimize transport distances. Meanwhile, the UNEP Ozone Secretariat will co-ordinate with the Basel Convention Secretariat to ensure the transport of unwanted ozone-depleting susbstances to countries with destruction facilities is correctly permitted. Participating countries include Argentina, Australia, Micronesia, Mauritius, the Netherlands and the US.

Delegates at the conference also requested that the executive secretary of the Montreal Protocol explore closer ties with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The delegates believe that treaties combating ozone-layer damage and climate change can learn from each other to maximize economic and environmental benefits. They’d particularly like to explore areas of co-operation such as how best to reduce releases of hydrofluorocarbons, which are controlled under the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol, and the accelerated phase-out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons.

“In a world of scarce financial resources, maximizing the impacts of the various multilateral environmental agreements is paramount,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme. “Governments have made it clear that there can be multiple benefits if the experiences of the Montreal Protocol and the UN climate change convention can be better shared to reinforce mutual aims. UNEP looks forward to exploring how best these recommendations can be taken forward.”

The meeting saw the announcement of the first ozone-monitoring ground station in west Asia, which will be situated in Qatar. The station will fill a gap in the existing worldwide monitoring system – currently the next nearest ozone stations are 800 km away in Estahan, Iran, and 3,340 km away in Nairobi, Kenya. Today’s halocarbon monitoring sites are even farther away – in central Europe more than 4000 km away and China, more than 6000 km away.

The new measurement site should help establish whether the ozone layer is recovering. It will contain an MK III Brewer spectrophotometer able to measure ozone, ultraviolet light and aerosols; a micropulse lidar for monitoring clouds and aerosols over Qatar itself; a Cimel sun-tracking photometer that can measure total column water vapour, ozone and aerosol properties; and an automated gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer able to measure atmospheric concentrations of the chemicals and gases linked with ozone-layer damage and climate change such as the refrigerants chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons and halons from foams and fire-fighting equipment.