Restoring ozone layer could ring in health, economic benefits – Ban

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Mark Garten

16 September 2008 – Repairing the Earth’s badly-damaged ozone layer is not only to be undertaken in times of economic prosperity, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, stressing that depleting substances harmful to the layer could propel health, social and economic progress.

Marking the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, Mr. Ban said that efforts to tackle climate change are adversely affected when the global economic situation is in flux.

“At such moments, safeguarding the planet has often been seen as a luxury, and as a burden on economic recovery and development,” he said in a message marking the Day. “But the remarkable story of the ozone layer, whose preservation we celebrate today, shows such thinking for what it is: mere myth.”

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer – which opened for signature on 16 September 1987 – is the UN-backed treaty to curb the release of harmful substances into the atmosphere that contribute to both ozone depletion and climate change.

The treaty seeks to phase out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), carbon tetrachloride (CTC) and halons by 1 January 2010.

“After decades of chemical attack, it may take another 50 years or so for the ozone layer to recover fully,” Mr. Ban said. “As the Montreal Protocol has taught us, when we degrade our environment too far, nursing it back to health tends to be a long journey, not a quick fix.”

But he pointed out that the pact also highlights how taking action in one area can lead to benefits in other arenas, including efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline.

The Secretary-General also called for countries to reach accord on a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period ends in 2012, at a conference next year in Copenhagen.

“Our goal must be a decisive new agreement that sets the world on track to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, and that provides the funding needed for vulnerable countries to adapt to the impact of climate change,” he said.

The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned today that this year’s Antarctic ozone will be larger than it was last year, delaying the layer’s recovery.

As of 13 September, the hole measures 27 million square kilometres, exceeding the size of last year’s hole by 2 million square kilometres, according to the agency.

Meanwhile, several UN agencies have banded together for a new educational initiative to raise awareness among secondary school students on preserving the ozone layer.

The scheme called “High Sky” was announced today by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Targeting 13 to 16-year-olds, the project – which encourages role playing – includes books for teachers and students, as well as materials featuring Ozzy and Zoe Ozone.

Students assume the role of journalists seeking a job in a news agency, and are challenged to write an article depicting the current state of the ozone layer and its ties to climate change.

“Children are the most valuable resource on the planet,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “Kids and their parents are protected by the ozone layer, our Earth’s protective shield, which is under continued threat.”


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