During today’s high-level meeting in Colombo, delegates were addressed by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayeke, who announced his country’s plan to phase out CFCs by 2005, five years earlier than required by the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer. UNEP said the completion of the CFC phase-out schedule for developing countries was of particular importance for the recovery of the Earth’s stratospheric ozone layer. Under the Protocol, these countries pledged to freeze their production and consumption of CFCs by 1999, reduce them by 50 per cent by 2005 and by 85 per cent by 2007, before completely phasing them out by 2010. Developing States will also be required to freeze halons and methyl bromide in 2002. Developed countries almost completely phased out CFCs in 1996. The Colombo meeting also conducted the first review of national data on the consumption and production of CFCs by developing countries. The data indicates that most developing countries are in compliance, but that 25 out of 136 had increased their consumption of CFCs in 1999, while one increased its production. “Fortunately, these countries can call on the Protocol’s Multilateral Fund, which provides financial support to help governments make the transition to ozone-safe technologies,” UNEP said in a statement issued after the meeting. The participants also agreed to the terms of reference for a study that will help governments determine the level at which the Fund should be replenished for the 2003-05 funding period. Since 1991, more than $1.2 billion has been disbursed by the Fund for phase-out projects in some 120 developing countries. The meeting also considered the problem of the illegal trade in controlled substances. As a next step, it requested the Protocol’s secretariat to prepare a report on the issue in time for the next meeting of the Protocol’s Open-Ended Working Group in mid-2002.