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This blog post was written by Paulina Zajac, Communications Intern at Raoul Wallenberg Institute’s HQ.
The International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer
The International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer occurs on the 16th of September. The day was first introduced by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1994 and is tied with the date of the signing of the Montreal Protocol in 1987. Unprecedently successful in both ratification and execution, the environmental treaty drastically changed the progression of the ozone layer’s depletion. Crucial for safeguarding future climate efforts, the day is observed every year. However, as the ozone layer heals, the limelight shifts to the grander issue of climate change.
This year, the theme selected by the UN is Montreal Protocol: fixing the ozone layer and reducing climate change. The theme underlines the pivotal role of the Montreal Protocol in not only healing the ozone layer but also in combatting climate change. Evidently, the emphasis is on the overarching topic of climate change – so what lessons can we learn from the Montreal Protocol?
Montreal Protocol 1987
The need for the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer arose following new scientific research, including the Nobel Prize winning work carried out by Paul J. Crutzen, Mario J. Molina, and F. Sherwood Rowland in the 1970s, awarded “for their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone”, as well as the discovery of the Antarctic Ozone Hole in 1985 by the British Antarctic Survey. At that time, the emerging problem was attributed to extensive use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) found in household and hygiene products. This, surprisingly, was enough to motivate populations into immediate action.
Initially signed by 46 countries, the treaty now has a grand total of 200 signatories. Unique in its status, the protocol is one of few which achieved ratification universally. It is to this day deemed a highly successful international treaty in the environmental sphere. The global agreement works towards the necessary protection of the ozone layer by ensuring compliancy in the phasing out of harmful chemicals known as ozone-depleting substances (ODS). The treaty centres around managing both production and consumption of such substances. Since its creation, the Montreal Protocol has been updated over time, in order to adapt according to scientific or technical developments. Now, the Montreal Protocol is tied into the theme in order to reiterate the synonymous benefits it holds for the efforts to combat climate change.
In line with the Kigali Amendment of 2016 and recommendations following assessments by the Scientific Assessment Panel, the global goal is to reduce the production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are gases now widely used in exchange for CFCs, but still possess harmful qualities for not only the environment, through their climate-warming byproducts, but also directly to human health. HFCs are currently necessary throughout the cooling industries around the world. The issue demonstrates the incompatibility of individual and personal cooling system needs with the rising urgency for reduction of our dependency on them as global temperatures rise. This is only one of countless issues contributing to climate change.
The Ozone Layer in 2023
Good news – the ozone layer is on its way to recovery. The Montreal Protocol’s impact on ozone layer recovery has been nothing short of remarkable. Thanks to global efforts, we have witnessed the first signs of healing in the ozone layer. Reports project the ozone layer to return to its pre-1980 levels around the middle of the century.
Bad news – the climate crisis is in full swing. One of the grander initiatives honing in on climate matters is the Paris Climate Agreement. Despite being similar to the Montreal Protocol, the Paris Climate Agreement has failed to match its effectiveness in terms of its goal of curbing CO2 emissions. Though both are international environmental agreements, the success of the Montreal Protocol significantly outweighs the Paris Climate Agreement, a fact reflected in both public attitudes and tangible scientific research. What the Agreement needs now in order to match the Montreal Protocol is unified action, incentives for nations, and penalties for lack of compliance. Thenceforth, the world may finally witness positive progress in the fight against climate change.
The intersection of ozone layer preservation and climate change mitigation is a vital aspect of this year’s theme. By reducing the emission of ODS, the Montreal Protocol has made a substantial contribution to mitigating climate change, demonstrating the interconnectedness of environmental obstacles and underscores the need for holistic solutions.
Most importantly, the lessons we’ve learned from the Montreal Protocol can serve as a model for addressing other global environmental issues. The ozone layer lesson highlights the power of international cooperation, the importance of science-based decision-making, and humanity’s capacity to take action when faced with a pressing environmental crisis.
To conclude, let the words of UN Secretary General António Guterres resound:
“The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived. Leaders must lead. No more hesitancy. No more excuses. No more waiting for others to move first. There is simply no more time for that. It is still possible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the very worst of climate change. But only with dramatic, immediate climate action.”
It is time to take concrete and decisive action. For the Paris Agreement to carry through as initially planned, emissions must be reduced by 43% by 2030. This is a weight that ought to be shouldered by all duty-bearers, and must equally be supported by rights-holders. The world can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to the threat of climate change.
On this International Day, let’s celebrate the successes of the Montreal Protocol, and remember that change is possible through collective action!
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Featured image by NASA via Unsplash.