World Bank to Finance Nations' Shift From CFCs
US backs the move, but doesn't want to raise its contributions to help
THE United States wants the World Bank to administer and finance the developing countries' resources and pay for this change without any additional American contributions. In addition, in interviews, White House and United States Environmental Protection Agency officials say the issue of who pays for the developing nation's shift to non-CFC chemicals has taken on racial overtones. Some developing countries, which are largely populated by brown- and black-skinned people, have said shifting from ozone-depleting chemicals is not that important to them since the sun's harmful rays damage mainly white-skinned individuals.
The damaging rays, however, also harm plant and animal life. As one official involved notes, increased ultraviolet radiation also would increase the risk of eye damage for all races.
Although the developing countries produce only 10 percent of the ozone-depleting emissions, their use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) is growing quickly. Scientists are concerned that any reduction in CFC use by the industrial countries will be nullified by increased use by developing nations.
This week, the United States, its allies, and the developing countries, will try to resolve some of these issues when negotiators meet in Geneva to work on a draft agreement to phase out all CFC use by the year 2000.
At the end of June, the countries will meet in London to finalize this agreement. William Reilly, Environmental Protection Administrator (EPA) administrator, will represent the US.
In interviews, however, US officials and others who are involved in the talks, admit that there are still significant disagreements. ``I think we will get a general set of principles agreed to by June,'' says Eileen Claussen, the chief US negotiator and the director of Atmospheric and Indoor Air Programs at the EPA.
In June, the group of 41 nations will consider whether to make a series of adjustments to the initial agreement, called the Montreal Protocol, which was signed in September 1987.
One of those adjustments will be the total phaseout of all CFC products by 2000. Currently, there is only an agreement to cut the use of the chemicals by half. CFCs are chemicals used in air conditioning, refrigeration, insulation, electronics, and fire suppression.
In addition, the US wants the group to agree to include the chemical methyl chloroform and carbon tetrachloride as chemicals that will be eliminated by 2000. Both chemicals are used in industrial processes.
The most difficult negotiations will involve an amendment about the developing-country issue. This potential roadblock has been discussed at high levels in the White House.
Payment is not the only problem. The developing countries also want the technology for free to produce the alternative chemicals that will be used. They are opposed by the multinational companies which produce the chemicals.
``The multinational companies have historically built the plants,'' says F. A. (Tony) Vogelsberg Jr., environmental manager for E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. Inc. Mr. Vogelsberg says Du Pont, which makes 40 percent of the CFCs used by the world, also intends to make a profit on any alternatives it discovers.
``We will not make it available at cost,'' says Vogelsberg.
Instead, Vogelsberg says the developing nations should receive assistance in methods to use the new chemicals as they are developed. The US supports the chemical industry on this point. ``There are complex intellectual property issues here,'' Ms. Claussen says.
To monitor the transfer of technology, the US wants the World Bank to manage the transfer of technology and money on a project-by-project basis. The US would like the World Bank to come forward with its own proposal on how it would manage the problem.
However, the World Bank wants to include the CFC problem in the larger context of world environmental problems. A recent World Bank white paper included CFCs as one of many problems, says Mohan Munasinghe, chief of the environmental policy division at the Bank.
Yesterday, there was an indication of the direction the bank prefers to go. The Development Committee of the bank was scheduled to vote on a so-called ``green fund,'' which would loan $300 million to $400 million a year to poorer countries at concessional interest rates. The purpose of the fund, Mr. Conable told reporters last week, is to work on special environmental problems such as biodiversity and the generation of greenhouse gases.
The Bush administration informed Conable last week that it would not contribute to the green fund in large part because of US budget problems and philosophical differences over the need for some of the programs. Britain and Japan both agree with the US. The French are in favor of such a fund.
The Page 1 headline of the May 8 edition, ``World Bank to Finance Nations' Shift From CFCs'' was incorrect. It should have said the US wants the World Bank to finance the shift. Because of a computer error, the opening paragraph of the article was incorrect. It should have read: ``The United States wants the World Bank to administer and finance the developing countries shift from ozone-depleting chemicals because the Bush administration has decided the World Bank has enough resources to pay for this change without any additional American contributions.''