The Ozone Hole

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16 September 2003

The international community's response to the destruction of the ozone layer, the shield that protects the earth from the sun's deadly ultraviolet radiation, has been impressive. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is working.

Recent findings by the world's leading atmospheric scientists show that the level of chlorine in the upper atmosphere is at or near its peak. As a result, the rate of ozone layer depletion in the stratosphere has been observed to be declining. We are now seeing the first signs of the recovery of the ozone layer.

However, we cannot be complacent. The ozone layer remains depleted above the Antarctic and the Arctic, as well as in the midlatitudes of both hemispheres of the earth. The same scientists warn that the ozone layer will remain particularly vulnerable during the next decade or so. As we look to the future, even greater political commitment and further action is required to ensure full compliance with the Montreal Protocol by developed and developing countries alike.

There are several challenges to be met. For instance, all countries must ratify the Amendments to the Montreal Protocol. The developing country Parties that entered their "compliance" period in 1999 must phase out the use of many ozone depleting substances within specified time schedules. The illegal trade in chlorofluorocarbons must be curbed. Parties to the Montreal Protocol need to meet the challenges involved in phasing out methyl bromide under the Copenhagen Amendment of 1992, as well as in evaluating and approving those critical uses allowed under the Montreal Protocol. Alternatives to some current uses of methyl bromide must still be found. And more research is required on the relationship between depletion of the ozone layer and climate change.

So while we may be gratified with the progress that has been made through international cooperation, we must not be satisfied until the preservation of the ozone layer is assured. Only then will we be able to say that we have saved our sky for future generations.