s the world yesterday marked International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, the United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon had some good news that effective steps had been taken to protect the ozone layer and he appealed that similar steps be taken by the world in a joint effort to curb climate change.
The UN Chief in a special message said the stratospheric ozone layer was on the road to recovery by the middle of this century and thus up to two million cases of skin cancer and even more cases of eye cataracts could be prevented each year. Indeed a health revolution.
“Not so long ago, humanity stood on the brink of a self-inflicted catastrophe. Our use of ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) (used widely in Sri Lanka also) had torn a hole in the ozone layer that protected us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. But we tackled this challenge. Thirty years ago, the international community signed the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. Under its Montreal Protocol, the world united to slash the production and consumption of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances. Together, we have succeeded in putting the stratospheric ozone layer on the road to recovery.
“As we look forward to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the effort by governments later this year in Paris to forge a new, collective path forward on climate change, the Montreal Protocol’s success should inspire us. But the work of the Montreal Protocol is not yet done. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) have been used as replacements for many ozone-depleting substances. While they do not deplete the ozone layer, they are extremely potent greenhouse gases and will contribute a great deal of warming to our already overheated planet in the coming decades unless we act now,” The UN chief warned.
“Many countries are now considering using the Montreal Protocol regime to phase down HFCs. A political commitment to managing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol could be one of the biggest climate change wins in the lead-up to the Paris climate conference. It will also be another strong victory for multilateral efforts to safeguard our environment,” Mr. Ban told the world.
Science writer Nalaka Gunawardene who has worked as a consultant with the Ministry of Environment and UN Environment Programme in public communication of ozone and climate-change messages, wrote an article in the Daily Mirror’s opinion page yesterday further explaining how the world has overcome the ozone layer crisis. He says the Montreal Protocol is seen as a prime example of how good science, well covered by the media, led to specific and sustained policy responses. By the end of 2014, it had been signed and ratified by 197 countries, making it the most widely subscribed international treaty of all time.
From 1989 Sri Lanka has been an active participant of the global ozone protection efforts. The Environment Ministry’s National Ozone Unit (NOU) embarked on a national strategy and action plan for phasing out ozone depleting substances.
Writer Gunawardene says providing technical and financial assistance to industries using ozone-depleting substances to phase these out was a core part of this strategy.
Among the developing Asian countries implementing the Montreal Protocol, Sri Lanka was among the first to recognize the value of information, education and communication activities. Changing public attitudes and behaviour is a long and gradual process that requires sustained engagement. So good communications will continue to play an important part in Sri Lanka’s journey towards protecting the ozone layer.