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International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer

To commemorate the signing of the Montreal Protocol on September 16, 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared September 16 as International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. Since then every year September 16 has been dedicated to the importance of preserving the protective ozone layer.

The ozone layer is a naturally occurring high concentration of ozone chemicals between 15 and 30 kilometers above the Earth's surface (stratosphere). It covers the entire planet. By absorbing the sun's harmful ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation, it forms an effective shield from the sun, protecting living organisms on earth from excessive UV-B radiation, which is found to cause cancer, cataracts, genetic damage and immune system suppression.

When it became known in 1974 that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were causing ozone chemicals to deplete in the stratosphere, and later in 1985 unusually low ozone concentrations were spotted over Antarctica (in parallel to a general ozone layer thinning process found worldwide), the world was spurred to action. In 1987, representatives from 24 countries met in Montreal to make a joint commitment to protect the ozone layer from further damage. Their commitments were laid down in the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer on December 19, 1987. The Montreal Protocol commits countries to phase out nearly 100 industrial chemicals known as ozone-depleting substances (ODS). These include hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, methyl bromide, carbon tetrachloride, and methyl chloroform, as well as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are potent greenhouse gases found to induce climate change. The Montreal Protocol is the only international treaty that all 198 UN member states have ratified.

Pursuant to Article 6 of the Montreal Protocol, the state of the ozone layer is reviewed every three or four years. According to the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion Report conducted last in 2018, the Antarctic ozone hole is recovering and is expected to gradually close by the 2060s, reaching pre-1980 levels of ozone concentration in the stratosphere. Ozone layer recovery to pre-1980 levels is projected in the 2030s for the Northern Hemisphere and in 2050 for the Southern Hemisphere.

This year's International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer also acknowledges climate gains achieved through the Montreal Protocol by also phasing out potent greenhouse gases with global warming potential.

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How it ties in with EMAS

EMAS is a great tool for developing technological and economic solutions at corporate level to limit the use of HFCs - commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning, and to promote selection of alternatives to HCFCs.

EMAS can assist companies in designing and implementing measures such as recycling, recovery and end-of-life disposal of appliances containing HFCs, by facilitating the setting of clear objectives, targets, policies and procedures, by helping organisations to measure their environmental impacts, and by requiring organisations to report on their activities annually. In this way, EMAS contributes to building an organisational structure in which environmental activities are geared towards higher performance, transparency and responsibility.

In addition, organizations are required to report total annual emissions to air, including HFCs, as a standard environmental performance indicator. If other emissions such as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, methyl bromide, carbon tetrachloride, and methyl chloroform, which are generated as part of the activities carried out by the organization, are considered to be environmental aspects with significant environmental impacts, organizations must demonstrate that they have been identified and addressed as part of the management system.

For further information:

  • See the original news item on the UN webpage