16 September 2006 Efforts to protect the ozone layer are showing signs of progress, but much remains to be done to restore this life-saving part of the earth's atmosphere that filters out the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message marking the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer.
The latest scientific assessments conducted under the auspices of the UN Environment Programme(UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) found clear evidence of a reduction in ozone-depleting substances in the lower atmosphere, as well as indications that their destructive impact in the stratosphere was also on the wane, according to the message. But they also push back the estimated date for total ozone layer recovery by 15 years, to 2065.
Mr. Annan cautioned that failure to comply with the Montreal Protocol, the 1987 international treaty set up to protect the ozone layer, could delay or even bring this progress to a halt.
“The work is still unfinished, and it is only through persistent dedication over the course of this century that our generation and future generations will realize the benefits of full ozone layer recovery,” he said.
Meanwhile, the WMO has launched its first bulletin detailing depletion of the ozone layer over the Arctic.
While the hole in the ozone layer remains fairly static when it appears over the Antarctic, areas of depletion in the Arctic are much more likely to shift around, subjecting populations across far northern latitudes to less protection from the ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer, cataracts and other ills, the report said.
The WMO also found that the degree of ozone loss depended to a large extent on meteorological conditions, with this past year's mild winter resulting in less ozone loss than the previous winter, which saw one of the largest Arctic ozone losses ever recorded.
This comes as three UN agencies today jointly launched a teaching programme aimed at showing children how to protect the ozone layer and safely enjoy the sun.
The OzonAction Education Pack is the product of a collaboration between UNEP, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Health Organization (WHO)
It involves teaching such basic concepts like looking at your shadow to determine how direct the sun is and covering up with hats, sunglasses and sunscreen.
“The OzonAction Education Pack will help schoolchildren to become aware of the simple protection steps that reduce solar UV health risks,” said Dr. Anders Nordström, Acting Director-General of WHO. “Severe health effects such as melanoma and other skin cancers are largely preventable through reduced sun exposure.”