World Ozone Layer Day: Preserving mother earth’s blanket
ISLAMABAD: Efforts are under way in Pakistan to reduce the production and consumption of substances, which deplete the Earth’s ozone layer, by 10 per cent over the next couple of years, according to officials at the Climate Change Division.
“This year, we started the process of phasing out hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) which are commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners,” said Asif Khan, the National Programme Manager of the Ozone Cell. “When released in the atmosphere, the chlorine atoms in HCFCs can destroy the ozone layer.”
Khan was speaking with The Express Tribune on the eve of the International Day for Preservation of Ozone Layer. Since 1994, the day has been celebrated each year on September 16 to commemorate the date of the signing of the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
The protocol, signed by around 190 countries including Pakistan, requires its member states to completely phase out consumption and production of HCFCs by 2030. Developing countries, such as Pakistan, are required to achieve 10 per cent reduction in existing HCFC production and consumption by 2015, Khan said.
The Montreal Protocol is considered a successful treaty, as countries around the world joined forces to phase out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the original ozone-depletion compounds, by 2010. The CFCs were replaced by HCFCs which later turned out to be equally harmful to the ozone layer, leading to revised objectives for the protocol.
Khan said the Ozone Cell, which works closely with the international organisations, is focusing on heavy consumers of HCFCs in industry.
“We are trying to help foam manufacturers to start using cyclopentane gas instead of HCFCs,” Khan said. “This alternative is not only ozone-friendly but also beneficial for the climate.”
Pakistan appears to be on track for the 2015 target but at a February 2013 meeting of stakeholders, industry representatives expressed concerns over future targets set by the protocol – 35 per cent and 67.5 per cent reduction in HCFCs by 2020 and 2025 respectively. The industry representatives had asked the government to involve them in policymaking regarding the phase-out.
Gul Najam Jamy, the Assistant Country Director of United Nations Development Programme which also supports the Ozone Cell, said the theme of the 2013 international day – “A healthy atmosphere” – is extremely relevant.
“It is sometimes difficult to get people to understand the importance of ozone layer preservation,” Jamy said. “But if you look at the health impacts, the importance is obvious.”
He said excessive exposure to Sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause skin cancer and cataracts, which makes it essential to protect the ozone layer. There is an additional benefit too, he said.
“Protecting the atmosphere might also help engender a culture in our society of protecting the environment,” Jamy said.