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World Ozone Day: 32 years of recovery

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On September 16, 2019, we commemorated the more than three decades of international cooperation for the recovery of the ozone layer, the main protection mechanism against the harmful effects of solar radiation.

It has been 25 years since the General Assembly of the United Nations declared on September 16 the “International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer“, in commemoration of the signing of the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer.

This day is an impulse to encourage governments, companies and society to participate in actions aimed at meeting the objectives of this 1987 protocol, which required countries to protect the ozone layer through the elimination and control of the production and use of more than 100 harmful chemicals.

This protocol originated from the discovery that the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and other substances used mostly in aerosols and air conditioning and refrigeration systems caused the destruction of the ozone layer, which acts as a protective filter absorbing harmful radiation and high energy arriving on Earth.

This year we celebrate 32 years of the global commitment in the restitution of the ozone layer, time in which 99 % of chemical products that deteriorate the layer have been eliminated.

The motto of this year is ‘’32 years of recovery’’, and it celebrates the time of international cooperation restoring the ozone layer that has contributed to the preservation of life in our planet. In these years, 99 % of the chemicals that deteriorate the ozone layer have been eliminated.

Likewise, the measures taken to protect the ozone layer have had a collateral effect on climate change, since it has been possible to avoid around 135,000 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions between 1990 and 2010. In this line, the January 1, 2019, the Kigali Amendment entered into force, whose main objective is the progressive elimination of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), compounds initially promoted by the Montreal Protocol as an alternative to CFC and which, although they do not threaten the ozone layer, they have a high global warming potential, far superior to carbon dioxide.

The United Nations Organization indicates that the ozone layer could be fully recovered by 2060.

According to the latest UN studies on the reduction of the ozone layer, it has been recovered at a rate of 1 to 3 % since the beginning of the century. Following the current trend, the ozone layer is expected to be fully recovered by 2060. The NASA, through its website, makes the Ozone Watch available to users, from which you can track the status of the ozone layer.

It seems clear that data is encouraging, but it is vital to remain alert and to avoid setbacks such as the one reported by an article in the Nature magazine the last May 22, which published an increase in emissions of CFC-11 in Shandong and Hebei provinces (China), most likely due to the unregulated production processes.

It is necessary to continue working on strengthening the legislative regimes of all countries to guarantee the non-use of ozone-depleting substances, since illicit activities such as that detected in China imply a significant slowdown in the recovery of the ozone layer, directly affecting the environment and health of both present and future generations. Each one of us is responsible in this matter and it is our duty to do what is in our hands to achieve the complete recovery of the ozone layer.

Pablo Collazo Sánchez, responsible for environmental sustainability at Abengoa.

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