United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Vienna Convention Celebrates Three Decades of Successful Science-Based Global Action to Protect the Ozone Layer

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The ozone layer is healing itself and is expected to recover by the middle of this century.

Nairobi -- The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, which serves as a framework for global efforts to protect the Earth's protective ozone layer, is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its adoption on 22 March 1985.

The Vienna Convention and its Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer are the first and only global environmental treaties so far to achieve universal ratification, having been ratified by 197 parties. Together, they have established a successful ozone protection regime, with sound scientific knowledge serving as the basis for appropriate policies and action under the Convention and the Protocol.

'The 30th anniversary of the Vienna Convention is a moment to reflect on how science can unite the world in action,' said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

As a result of concerted global action under the Montreal Protocol to phase out ozone-depleting substances (ODSs), the ozone layer is healing itself and is expected to recover by the middle of this century, according to the latest scientific assessment, published in 2014.

The Protocol has led to the phase-out of over 98 per cent of the historic levels of production and consumption of ODSs globally.

In addition, up to 2 million cases of skin cancer may be prevented each year by 2030. Without the Montreal Protocol, runaway ozone depletion would have led to large increases in ultraviolet radiation around the world, with major consequences for the risk of skin cancer.

The Montreal Protocol and its amendments may also prevent 283 million cases of skin cancer, 8.3 million of which are melanoma; 1.6 million deaths from skin cancer; and 46 million cases of cataract for those born between 1890 and 2100 in the United States, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Global ozone protection efforts have also averted adverse impacts on agriculture, animals, forests, marine life, natural ecosystems and materials. In addition, those efforts have significantly contributed to the mitigation of climate change by averting more than 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions going into the atmosphere.

'The ozone protection regime is an example of how, if nations join together, provided that they have the right science, that they also have an agreement on finance and technology, and work in solidarity with one another, they can achieve extraordinary things,' Steiner said.

'As we move forward in trying to address international environmental challenges and pressures, we should learn both from the importance of science being the basis upon which nations can unite in their effort, but also the importance of the United Nations continuously providing the governance instruments and also the means by which nations can come together to act,' he added.

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