Tuesday June 25, 2024

Help the ozone

By Zile Huma
September 28, 2023

The International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer is celebrated every year on September 16 to create awareness about the importance of and threats faced by the ozone layer.

This year, with the theme ‘Montreal Protocol: Fixing the Ozone Layer and reducing climate change’, the day was celebrated to create awareness and reiterate our commitment to fully comply with the Montreal Protocol.

The ozone is a cover of gases protecting the earth from dangerous and harmful rays of the sun, to sustain life on it. During the 1980s scientists observed the reduction in the blanket of ozone gases. These observations energized the international community to take serious actions to preserve the ozone layer.

After this realization, the international community joined hands to formalize a mechanism in the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer in 1985. This first step led the path to the ‘Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer’ – a groundbreaking multilateral agreement adopted on September 16, 1987 to regulate the consumption and production of 100 substances that are playing a part in depletion of the ozone layer.

The ozone layer is essential for the survival of living beings on earth as it absorbs more than 95 per cent of ultraviolet rays. These rays can cause sunburn, eye diseases, and cancer in human beings if not shielded by the ozone layer. In addition to this, ozone depletion is also linked with climate change.

The ozone helps maintain the temperature of the earth’s surface by absorbing ultraviolet radiations that can increase the temperature of the stratosphere. So, the depletion of the ozone layer is also the cause of global warming and the negative impacts of climate change on the surface of the earth. These ozone-depleting substances when released into the air combine with rain and result in acid rain which hampers plants’ growth and causes corrosion of materials. It runs into lakes, rivers, and seas, and becomes fatal to marine life.

The depletion of the ozone layer is caused by the excessive use of appliances releasing ozone-depleting substances (ODS) chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Such appliances include refrigerators, air conditioners, fire extinguishers, sprays, etc.

The depletion of the ozone layer and possible outcomes forced nations to take it seriously. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, “Around 99 per cent of ozone-depleting substances have been phased out and the protective layer above earth is being replenished. The Antarctic ozone hole is expected to close by the 2060s.”

The reason behind the success of the Montreal Protocol is the willingness of industries to find alternatives to ODS. It is a remarkable achievement and a perfect example set for other such international environmental agreements to be implemented with the same spirit. Pakistan being a signatory to the Montreal Protocol has also taken several initiatives leading to the phasing out of ODS.

Customs officers have been trained to stop the smuggling of products using ODS. Surveys have been conducted with the support of international organizations to collect data on ODS-utilizing industries. Several plans have been developed to completely phase out ozone-depleting substances to ensure compliance with the Montreal Protocol.

According to the 2020 Finance Division report, Pakistan took several steps to comply with the Montreal Protocol including monitoring of hydrofluorocarbon quota, engagement of academia to research to introduce the best practices to phase out ODS, awareness campaigns, developing of legal instruments, data collection of import data of HCFC from the FBR and issuance of HCFC quota for the year 2020 based on the phase-out plan.

Similarly, in 2020 the then special assistant to the PM said that Pakistan pledged to control 35 per cent import of the HCFC in the 1992 agreement while it had achieved 50 per cent, performing better than its targets, in compliance with the protocol.”

A remarkable progress has been made by Pakistan so far to protect the ozone layer and achieve its targets to fulfil its obligations under the Montreal Protocol.

The protection and preservation of the ozone layer is essential for the survival of living beings. We need continuous and collective efforts to fix the ozone layer and restore it to its original shape. Similar approach can be adopted to resolve many other complex problems related to climate change and environment.

The writer is a graduate of University of Oxford in Public Policy. She tweets/posts @zilehumma_1