Preservation of ozone shield can be achieved through political will: UN chief

world ozone day
World Ozone Day is observed on September 16 to celebrate the global actions to preserve the ozone layer. Image courtesy: UN website

The United Nations commemorated the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, on Wednesday, recognizing the success of landmark global agreements in helping restore the protective layer around Earth.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres in his message on the World Ozone Day said that, “The ozone treaties stand out as inspiring examples that show that, where political will prevails, there is little limit to what we can achieve in common cause,”

“It is imperative that we put our efforts and investments into tackling climate change and protecting nature and the ecosystems that sustain us,” he added.

The ozone layer is a fragile shield of gas that protects the Earth from the harmful portion of the rays of the sun.

This year, 35 years of the Vienna Convention and 35 years of global ozone layer protection are being celebrated.

In the late 1970s scientists discovered that a hole was being created in the ozone layer by human activities. They found that the hole was caused by ozone-depleting gases (ODSs) used in aerosols and cooling, such as refrigerators and air-conditioners, which were threatening to increase cases of skin cancer and cataracts, and damage plants, crops, and ecosystems.

The scientists raised the alarm and the global response was decisive. In 1985, the world’s governments adopted the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. Under the Convention’s Montreal Protocol, an international agreement made in 1987, governments, scientists and industry worked together to cut out 99 per cent of all ozone-depleting substances. In support of the Protocol, the Kigali Amendment, which came into force in 2019, will work towards reducing hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs), greenhouse gases with powerful climate warming potential and damaging to the environment.

World Ozone Day is observed on September 16 to celebrate the global actions to preserve the ozone layer. It demonstrated that collective decisions and action, guided by science, are the only way to solve major global crises.

Against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic and its devastating socio-economic impacts, Guterres urged efforts to build stronger and resilient societies.

“As we look ahead to global recovery from the social and economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we must commit to building stronger and more resilient societies,” he said.

Photo: UNEP

What is ozone?

Ozone is a special form of oxygen with the chemical formula O3. The oxygen we breathe and that is so vital to life on earth is O2.

Most ozone resides high up in the atmosphere, between 10-40 kilometres (about 6-25 miles) above Earth’s surface. This region is called the stratosphere and it contains about 90 per cent of all the ozone in the atmosphere.

Though it constitutes a very small part of the atmosphere, ozone’s presence is vital for life on Earth, as it shields the planet from Sun’s biologically harmful ultraviolet UV-B radiation.

The International Day

In 1994, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 16 September the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, commemorating the date of the signing, in 1987, of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

The 2020 theme for the International Day, 'Ozone for life', is a reminder that not only is ozone crucial for life on Earth, but that we must continue to protect the ozone layer for future generations.