More layers to ‘Ozone Day’ is the need of the hour
International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer is celebrated on September 16 to commemorate signing of the Montreal Protocol, one of the most successful environmental treaties. The Protocol was signed by 197 parties in 1987 to control the use of ozone-depleting substances, mainly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
Twenty-nine years after the Montreal Protocol was adopted, CFCs have been phased out. US space agency NASA has reported that the size of the ozone hole in the atmosphere has decreased. While it may seem that the purpose of Montreal Protocol has been achieved, using HFCs as an alternative will contribute to another problem: global warming.
HFCs do not deplete ozone but have high global warming potential. If the use of HFCs continues to increase, they may account for 9-19 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Recognising the damage HFCs can cause, countries are negotiating their phase down. The course of Montreal Protocol has changed from ozone protection to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Parties will meet in Rwanda this October to finalise an amendment to the Montreal Protocol on HFC phase down. They will negotiate on baseline, cut-off date and transition period.
Finance, intellectual property rights of new chemicals and flexibility in choosing alternatives are crucial issues for developing countries. Support to small-scale industry and servicing will also hold significance for countries heavily dependent of small and medium enterprises or having low consumption. For a fruitful phase down, it is important to prioritise environment-friendly, energy efficient, non-patented and low GWP refrigerants.
Ozone Day has been celebrated for preserving the ozone layer. Addressing climate change and global warming—problems that alternative chemicals are partially responsible for—need to the clubbed with safeguarding ozone. Ozone day cannot be about Ozone alone anymore.