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World Ozone Layer Day – A Success Story

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As all our readers know, the UN observes designated days with a particular topic or theme to promote awareness and necessary action.  Today, September 16, is World Ozone Layer Day, or more specifically: The International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, so let’s remind ourselves just why it is so important and why we can call it a success story.

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The need to preserve the ozone layer is certainly not a new phenomenon. The day itself has been observed since 1995, but it was back in the 1980s, a decade prior to the launch of World Ozone Layer Day, that shocking news of harmful gases accumulating in the Earth’s atmosphere had caused an enormous hole in the ozone layer. This led to fears of a worldwide rise in skin cancer and other problems on a global scale.

We can point to two milestone dates on the road to protecting the ozone layer: 1985, when at the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer 28 countries signed, adopted and set up a mechanism to take action, after findings on its depletion came to light. Then, a few years later in 1989, the Montreal Protocol came into force and set forth clear and precise measures to reduce many harmful elements that damage it.

In a short space of time we all became familiar with those harmful human-made gases and common chemicals, like halocarbons, halons, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), some of which did not directly attack the ozone layer but were strong greenhouse gases that inevitably added to the layer’s depletion. However, it was much more of a case of simply becoming aware of this new dangers with such long names, because in a relatively short space of time, many of these substances, chemicals and products started to be phased out. In most cases, safer substitutes were found, developed and quickly put into use. To what extent?

A recent study states that the thinning in the ozone layer is starting to heal which make this year’s World Ozone Day a successful one.

A little over a year ago, in June 2016, BBC news reported  that “new research points to clear evidence that the thinning in the ozone layer is starting to heal.” So a success story indeed, in the words of the expert, Dr. David Pahey, Director of the Chemical Sciences Division at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Laboratory, “This is a very positive story. The whole world has participated in the control of ozone-depleting substances. All the behind the scenes work has paid off. We are slowly reversing the trend.”

A few days prior to September 16, the #ozoneheroes campaign has been launched.

If so much progress has been made and continues to do so, why is there a need for World Ozone Layer Day?

First of all, because it’s not always a case of warnings, warnings and more warnings but sometimes a case of celebrating, and when it comes to ozone depletion, we do see that there is good news. The UN itself proudly states the purpose for World Ozone Layer Day 2017 on itswebsite, “The campaign will seek to celebrate the major accomplishments of the Montreal Protocol in protecting the ozone layer and the climate, to increase public recognition of the success and impact of the Protocol, and to generate further support.” The #ozoneheroes campaign is just one of the initiatives included that has been launched a few days prior on September 16th.

Obviously this does not mean that the fight is over and everything is done. A new mandate was added last year in Kigali, Rwanda, to continue the fight further and phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and their common use in cooling systems and solvents.

But there is a striking lesson to be learned from the ozone success story. Here is clear example of the international community coming together to fight a common goal. The Montreal Protocol is signed by 197 countries which makes it the very first treaty in the entire history of the UN to achieve universal ratification: a clear indication that other threats to the environment can be tackled just as successfully in the same way.

Andrew Dow

Andrew Dow. Abengoa Communication Department

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