Deal reached on cutting ozone-damaging emissions

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OTTAWA, Sep 22 (Reuters) Delegates from almost 200 countries agreed to eliminate ozone-depleting substances faster than originally planned, the United Nations said.

The agreement was reached at a conference yesterday in Montreal to mark the 20th anniversary of the Montreal protocol, which was designed to cut chemicals found to harm the ozone layer. The layer protects the Earth from ultraviolet radiation.

The United States -- backed by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) -- had urged delegates to move the deadline for phasing out production and use of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) for developed countries to 2020 from 2030 and to 2030 from 2040 for developing nations.

''A deal which UNEP believes is historic has been reached on the accelerated freezing and phase-out of HCFCs,'' said UNEP spokesman Nick Nuttall.

He said details of the deal would be unveiled at a news conference in Montreal at 10 am (1930 IST) today.

HCFCs are used in air conditioners and refrigerators. Holes in the ozone layer are blamed for increased risk of cancer and cataracts in humans.

Nuttall said the deal still had to be approved by a plenary session of the conference, adding that he did not expect there to be any problems or delays.

Washington says the faster phase-out of HCFCs would be twice as effective as the Kyoto protocol in fighting climate change.

REUTERS SKB VC0830

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