V. CONSIDERATION OF MULTILATERAL TRADE AND ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENTS IN DOMESTIC POLICY FORMULATION
The Ministry of Environment and Forestry is the focal point for all environmentally-related international agreements, and it has set up a Montreal Protocol Unit within its own organizational structure to coordinate all matters relating to the Protocol..
At a meeting of the parties to the Protocol held in 1995, the time target applicable to developing countries for phasing out ozone depleting substances (ODS) such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), carbon tetrachloride (CTC) and methyl chloroform has been set as the year 2010. For hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which have an ozone-depleting potential of only 5 to 11 per cent of that of CFCs, the time target has been set as the year 2040. Also, amendments introduced to the Protocol in 1992 have increased the list of HCFCs to 40, while a list of 34 new substances called hydrobromofluorocarbons (HBFCs) and another new substance, methyl bromide, have been included. In Sri Lanka, methyl bromide has applications in the tea sector.
Although adequate time is available before 2010 for developing countries to begin phasing out consumption of ODS, Sri Lanka has taken measures to phase ODS out earlier because it is economically advantageous to do so. Also, time targets for phasing out ODS have to be set in order to obtain assistance from the Multilateral Fund for technology transfer and investments necessary to implementing the changeover. Furthermore, time targets are necessary for the trade and industry sectors to plan their strategies for changing over to new technologies. Therefore the Ministry of Environment and Forestry has prohibited the use of CFCs, CTC and methyl chloroform in trade and industry after 1 January 2000, except for the purpose of servicing equipment which is allowed until 1 January 2005. The current consumption of CFCs in Sri Lanka is of the order of 350 tons annually and is used mainly in the refrigeration sector.
Coordinating the implementation of that aspect of the Protocol with the refrigeration and air-conditioning industry and the trade sector takes place through the interministerial committees that function in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and encompasses the Ministry of Industrial Development, Science and Technology and Ministry of Internal and International Commerce and Food.
The consumption in developed countries of methyl bromide, which is widely used in agriculture to fumigate soils and grains, was frozen in 1995 and is due to be banned by the year 2010, with an exemption granted for quarantine and preshipment applications. However, in the case of developing countries, consumption of methyl bromide will not be frozen until the year 2002, with an exemption given for critical agricultural applications. In view of its application in agriculture, no decision has been taken yet on a complete ban in the case of developing countries.
In Sri Lanka, methyl bromide is used because of its versatility in controlling a wide spectrum of pests, pathogens, insects and nematodes. It also has sufficient phytotoxicity to control many weeds and seeds. As a result of its efficacy, it is used in pest control (basically in stored products), on the tea plantations, and for plant quarantine mainly at ports and airports to fumigate export and import cargo. Its annual consumption totals about 60 tons, divided approximately equally between the tea sector and other uses. It is used by the tea sector for fumigating soils to control soil-born pests as well as diseases in nurseries. The product is recommended for use by SLTRB.
Apart from having an adverse impact on the ozone layer (its ozone depleting potential is 0.6 that of CFCs), methyl bromide is extremely hazardous to humans and animals as it causes eye and skin burns on contact.
Since it is a pesticide, in Sri Lanka its use is controlled by the Control of Pesticides Act. As such, methyl bromide imports, storage, labelling, transport, sales and use are regulated through a registration procedure. No person is allowed to undertake any of the above activities unless registered. Upon registration, a licence is issued by the Registrar of Pesticides, together with relevant restrictions and conditions, to ensure safe and effective use. Furthermore, since it is identified in Sri Lanka as one of the restricted pesticides it cannot be sold on the open market. Registered persons are allowed to import methyl bromide with the prior approval of the Registrar of Pesticides and to issue the product directly to authorized users. Users are identified by the Registrar, based upon the intended specific use, as well as facilities and expertise available to them.
According to the Montreal Protocol, methyl bromide could continue to be used in developing countries until alternatives are developed for agricultural applications. However, in addition to setting time targets for the ban on manufacture and import of ODS, the Montreal Protocol has also imposed restrictions on their trade. Therefore, developing countries like Sri Lanka, which depend on imports of such products from developed countries, will still encounter constraints for its continued use. Therefore the Ministry of Environment and Forestry has already begun seeking alternatives to methyl bromide for use in the tea sector.
However, constraints to finding alternatives are arising because methyl bromide has a wide range of applications and is a convenient material to use. It is quite penetrative and effective at low concentrations, and its action is sufficiently rapid in treated systems to cause relatively little disruption to commerce, and especially crop production. Difficulties in finding alternatives have already been reported by a Methyl Bromide Technical Options Committee which was established by the parties to the Montreal Protocol to review the technical issues concerning the chemical.
According to the Methyl Bromide Technical Options Committee, several identified potential alternatives include fumigants and non-fumigants. However, the environmental and health considerations that limit the use of any pesticide need to be taken into account when selecting alternatives. Further regulatory restrictions on the use of agrochemicals are likely to increase, resulting in higher costs and increasing inconvenience. The costs of achieving full commercial registration of unregistered material are high and the process is slow. The rapid introduction of alternatives also face specific constraints associated with the time taken to gain registration as well as regulatory acceptance of some procedures. When related to the treatment of exports to meet quarantine standards, the problem becomes even more acute when extensive trials and protracted bilateral negotiations are required.
The above constraints also apply to Sri Lanka. Although SLTRB has recommended alternatives to methyl bromide they do not appear to have been taken up, perhaps because of their specificity to particular applications. In that connection, the tea sector faces a number of constraints related to registration procedures etc. under the Pesticides Control Act when adopting entirely new alternatives.
To achieve the national policy objectives of phasing out ODS under the Montreal Protocol, a significant constraint concerns the Multilateral Fund. When the London Amendment to the Montreal Protocol was being negotiated in 1990, the Multilateral Fund was established on the insistence of developing countries, without imposing any conditions for disbursement of the funds. However, in submitting recent requests for funds, developing countries such as Sri Lanka have found that new criteria have been introduced, making it particularly difficult for countries with low-volume consumption levels of ODS to benefit from the Multilateral Fund.
One such criterion is that projects are approved on the basis of their cost effectiveness, defined in terms of United States dollars invested per ton of ODS eliminated. Generally, the figure is high for low-volume consuming countries such as Sri Lanka and therefore the projects receive low priority. In addition, the funds are disbursed for the transfer of technology at industry/trade level and not to direct users.
Even in the case of methyl bromide, disbursements from the Multilateral Fund are generally not made for research on alternatives. The cost of finding alternatives, including the necessary laboratory and field trials, is quite high and generally will not be covered by the Multilateral Fund. Currently, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry is negotiating with other donor agencies to obtain funds for research work. Meanwhile, CEA has approved a research grant in local currency to SLTRB, to undertake research work related to the quest for alternatives. Those endeavours will be coordinated by CEA and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry with SLTRB and the Ministry of Plantation Industries, through the Interministerial Coordinating Committee, in order to ensure the integration of policy objectives.