Interview: Ozone layer protection a "success," but more int'l cooperation needed, says UN expert

Source: Xinhua| 2021-09-18 12:16:51|Editor: huaxia

by Martina Fuchs

GENEVA, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- As the world marked the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer on Thursday, a leading scientist hailed recent efforts to protect this thin part of the Earth's atmosphere vital for the survival of mankind as a rare "success story," but urged more international cooperation to tackle climate change.

"The Montreal Protocol was actually extremely successful, so the ozone layer is back on its way to recover," Dr. Zita Sebesvari, deputy director at the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security based in Bonn, Germany, told Xinhua.

"One of the largest holes was above the Antarctic, and WMO (World Meteorological Organization) recently reported that that hole is closed by now so that's one of the recent developments," said Sebesvari.

The WMO declared in January that the record-breaking 2020 Antarctic ozone hole finally closed. It was the longest-lasting and one of the largest and deepest holes since the ozone layer monitoring began 40 years ago.

In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed Sept. 16 as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, commemorating the date of the signing, in 1987, of the Montreal Protocol.

It is a landmark multilateral environmental agreement that regulates the production and consumption of nearly 100 chemicals referred to as ozone depleting substances (ODS).

"We really succeeded with the Montreal Protocol to stop the production and consumption of these harmful gases and with that we are on a very good way to actually recover the ozone layer. It's not yet there but it's on a very good way," Sebesvari said.

The ozone layer, a fragile shield of gas, protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun, thus helping preserve life on the planet.

Human activity has damaged this protective layer of the stratosphere and while ozone layer health has improved, there's still much to be done.

"The ozone layer is a layer in the atmosphere around 15 to 30 kilometres above the Earth's surface with a high concentration of ozone and it's protecting us, and generally life on Earth from the harmful impacts of UVB waves," said Sebesvari, also one of the lead authors of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

"It's filtering out around 97 percent, 99 percent of these UVB waves. That means that it has an incredible impact on life on Earth. If the ozone layer would be depleted or missing, there would be no life on Earth, in fact."

"In the 70s, scientists raised awareness that we are depleting our ozone layer by using substances which are aggressive to the ozone layer. I think the subsequent international action, and the Montreal Protocol is a really good example how international cooperation can actually help to solve a major global issue and to have society to actually survive," she said.


Sebesvari also emphasized the impact of the protection of the ozone layer on climate change. "There's a very recent paper published in Nature from this year, which shows based on modelling that if the Montreal Protocol wouldn't have been put in place, we would have seen an additional global warming of 2.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century."

"This shows that taking action in one specific area, like here for the ozone layer, was extremely beneficial for halting climate change and that international action can actually be successful," the expert said. "We do not have too many success stories, but this is definitely one."

Asked about China's efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and how the country could help to further mitigate the impact, she said, "it's important that we do not forget about how important it is to further observe and respect the Montreal Protocol, and also monitor if such ozone depleting gases are still produced or still omitted."

"We can't just rest on the success. We need to continue following and respecting the protocol and monitor our emissions. All countries need to do more, in terms of curbing further our greenhouse gas emissions. China is within the boat, but not alone there so the entire international community needs to increase ambition."

The theme of World Ozone Day 2021 is "Ozone for Life: 36 Years of Ozone Layer Protection."

It comes as the crucial 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, will be held in the British city of Glasgow in November. Enditem

KEY WORDS: UN,Ozone,International Cooperation,INTERVIEW