United Nations Environment Programme
Methyl bromide, an ozone depleting substance, was used extensively in the past as a fumigant for controlling a wide range of pests and pathogens present in soils (fungi, bacteria and soil-borne viruses), as well as in post-harvest storage of commodities, in buildings or structures (insects, mites, nematodes and rodents). Since alternatives were available for such applications, they were classified under the Protocol as “controlled uses.” The Multilateral Fund supported developing countries to adopt new fumigants, technologies and practices, and by 1 January 2015 the global phase out of methyl bromide for controlled uses was completed – one of the great success stories of the Montreal Protocol.
The Protocol has a provision for “Critical Uses,” which applies to specific cases where a sector or region does not have technically or economically viable alternatives to methyl bromide and therefore its replacement is more difficult. Exemptions are granted annually by the Parties under this provision on a case-to-case country basis, and based on recommendations made by the Protocol’s Methyl Bromide Technical Options Committee. In addition, methyl bromide continues to be used a phytosanitary treatment to control pests and pathogens of quarantine importance on various traded goods, including perishable commodities such as food, fresh fruit and vegetables and durable commodities such as grain and pulses, wood products, cotton and other materials. Such goods and their packaging can carry unwanted, exotic pests or pathogens, which can be introduced or spread into a given country or territory, often with serious impacts on the environment, the country’s economy and even human health. To minimise these risks, governments implement national and international phytosanitary treatment standards. Very often, the treatment of choice is methyl bromide fumigation. These treatments are known as “Quarantine and Pre-shipment” (QPS) uses of methyl bromide, which are usually done before a country exports the traded goods or upon their arrival in the importing country. QPS use of methyl bromide is not controlled under the Montreal Protocol, however there are annual data reporting requirements. Alternatives to many QPS applications exist and many present health, environment and cost benefits as compared to methyl bromide.
OzonAction helps developing countries with these residual issues related to methyl bromide, i.e. understanding QPS and critical use exemptions, data reporting, encouraging establishment of national methyl bromide tracking systems and associated policies, and promoting adoption of QPS alternatives. This support is provided through publications and fact sheets produced by the Information Clearinghouse, discussions during the Regional Network meetings, and CAP assistance to help individual countries upon request.