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Last-minute hurdle stalls ozone treaty


NEGOTIATORS from 40 countries were yesterday struggling to overcome lastminute obstacles holding up agreement on a pact to cut the use of
chemicals damaging the Earth's protective ozone layer. Every year a million tons of released chemicals - called CFCs - drift up into the atmosphere
and attack the ozone layer which protects us from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. The United States Environment Protection Agency estimates
there will be 40 million more skin cancers and 12 million extra eye cataracts in the US alone over the next 90 years, if use of the chemicals goes
on growing at the present rate. The chemicals also threaten to change the climate, blight food crops and disrupt the world's life-support systems.
Over the last years a hole the size of the United States has opened in the ozone layer over Antarctica. New research shows that the chemicals are
almost certainly to blame. This research and rising public concern have brought nations to the verge of an agreement on much tougher controls
than seemed possible a few months ago. Even Britain, which has also led the opposition to restrictions, was reluctantly prepared to go along with
them. *** When talks opened in Montreal last week a pact to reduce use of chemicals by half appeared a mere formality. One top official said:
"People realise that something is happening that they don't understand and they want to correct their irresponsibility in the past." In the early
stage of the negotiations, the delegates even strengthened the treaty setting tougher deadlines for cuts and including more chemicals in the
controls.
They added three substances from another family, halons - mainly used in fire extinguishers - that are more damaging than CFCs. Then the
obstacles appeared. The most surprising roadblock came from the US, which has led the international campaign for chemical cuts. It demanded
that the treaty should not come into effect until ratified by countries that produce 90 percent of the chemicals. In effect, this means that any of the
main producers - the EEC, the US, Japan or the Soviet Union - could block the treaty by failing to ratify it.
American sources indicated that the obstacle had been introduced on  the initiative of President Reagan, who has himself had two operations for
skin cancer. Late on Friday the Soviet Union insisted on changes to deadlines to fit in with its current five-year plan. Third World countries, led
by Brazil and Argentina, are demanding exemptions from the treaty, and production of the chemicals will apparently be allowed to rise for a short
time to enable them to increase their consumption. Britain, meanwhile, is continuing to drag its feet, but a British proposal that a specific mixture
of CFCs should be exempted from cuts fell on stoney ground.
UNEP officials, led by its formidable executive director, Dr Mostafa Tolba, remain confident that they will overcome the obstacles. Mr Peter Usher,
the British scientist at UNEP in charge of the ozone programme, said: "We will get an extremely tough treaty."


(about 510 words)

from: THE GUARDIAN WEEKLY, March 1989 (slightly adapted)



Assignments


Do not copy from the text above. Use your own words as far as appropriate!

1. Say in two sentences what this text is about.
2. Summarize the text above from line 1 to *** in about 100 words.
3. Divide the text into its constituent parts.
4. What kind of text do we deal with?
5. Interpret the headline of the text above and list all the "hurdles" mentioned in the text.
6. Why did nobody expect the negotiations to fail in the beginning? Which country took the lead in shattering all hopes of a successful outcome
of the negotiations? Why did nobody expect just this country to act like this?
7. How effective are demonstrations and protests? Give reasons why people might demonstrate. If you were going to demonstrate what cause
would it be for?
8. Should we accept progress, so that thousands of unemployed people can have jobs, or should the environment be conserved at all costs?

 
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