Although a hurricane and floods rising to several metres are devastating Carolina, the United States President Donald Trump—reported by the Washington Post fact checker to have made more than 5000 false or misleading statements during his one year and nine months in office, still continues to describe global warming as largely a Chinese hoax. Recently he pulled the US out of the Paris climate change accord reached in December 2016 with most analysts now saying Mr. Trump is mentally unfit to rule the world’s most powerful country with some of his close aides describing him as idiotic or having the world political knowledge only of a fifth grade student as described in famous author Bob Woodward’s latest book which has already had a record sale of more than one million copies.
Whatever the impulsive or dangerously unpredictable US President may think or say, the international community last Sunday, September 16 marked the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer and there were some positive news.
In a message to mark the occasion, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that for more than three decades, the Montreal Protocol had done much more than shrink the ozone hole; it had shown us how environmental governance could respond to science, and how countries could come together to address a shared vulnerability. “I call for that same spirit of common cause and, especially, greater leadership as we strive to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change and mobilize the ambitious climate action we so urgently need at this time,” he said. Analysts wondered whether or what Mr. Trump would say in a Tweet about the success of the efforts to save the ozone layer.
According to the UN, the ozone layer--a fragile shield of gas--protects the Earth from the harmful portion of the rays of the sun, thus helping preserve life on the planet. The phase out of controlled uses of ozone depleting substances and the related reductions have not only helped protect the ozone layer for this and future generations, but have also contributed significantly to global efforts to address climate change; furthermore, it has protected human health and ecosystems by limiting the harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the earth.
The UN says the 2018 World Ozone Day theme is “keep cool and carry on” the Montreal Protocol. It is a motivational rallying call urging all people to carry on with the exemplary work of protecting the ozone layer and the climate under the Montreal Protocol. The theme has two connotations – that our work of protecting the ozone layer also protects climate and that the Montreal Protocol is a “cool” treaty, as exemplified by its outstanding success.
In Sri Lanka, President Maithripala Sirisena himself asked for and obtained the additional portfolio of environmental protection. Despite divisions and disputes, setbacks and unfulfilled pledges, the coalition government has taken practical and sustainable steps to protect the Ozone layer in line with the Montreal Protocol. For instance, tax concessions are being offered for the import of electric vehicles while solar power is being promoted for use by companies, schools, other institutions and even households. The government says it is strictly implementing laws against cutting of trees and deforestation but recently there have been reports of politicians being behind the cutting of Kumbuk and other valuable trees.
At a personal level, whatever the government does or does not do, eco-friendly and responsible citizens need to save fresh water, electricity, cultivate home gardens without the use of poisonous chemicals, reduce the use of plastic or polythene and use public transport or bicycles as far as possible to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide which depletes the ozone layer.