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15.09.2017

The ozone hole is shrinking

Earth showing a tropical storm in the eastern Indian Ocean and the western coast of Australia
16 September 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

Minister Hendricks: "International agreement has saved the ozone layer"

16 September marks the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. This international agreement proves that the international community is able to respond decisively and successfully to global environmental changes. The vital ozone layer surrounding the Earth has recovered significantly in the three decades since the protocol entered into force. UN scientists anticipate that by the middle of this century it will return to the status recorded in 1960. As ozone-depleting substances are also very climate-damaging, phasing out substances controlled under the protocol constitutes a major contribution to climate action that goes far beyond the achievements of the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol.

Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks commented: "It would not have been possible to protect the ozone layer without the Montreal Protocol. This was proven once again almost a year ago in Kigali when the contracting parties took the decision to phase-out the use of fluorinated greenhouse gases. This decision will help boost the implementation of the Paris Agreement and, due to the highly climate-damaging nature of these substances, will make a substantial contribution to combating climate change."

To date, the Montreal Protocol has been signed by 197 parties. The production of ozone-depleting substances has subsequently fallen by 99 percent and as a result the hole in the ozone layer has slowly begun to shrink. The protocol also protects global health. Without the measures taken under the protocol, there could have been an additional 2 million cases of skin cancer each year by 2030.

The adoption of the Montreal Protocol on 16 September 1987 was preceded by a series of controversial scientific discussions. In 1974, scientists already argued that CFCs were damaging the ozone layer - and they were later awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this ground-breaking discovery. The theory was initially questioned by many, however, in autumn 1985, measurements showed, for the first time, that the ozone layer was being depleted.

Soon afterwards it was recognised that the original regulations, which did not yet envisage complete bans, were not enough to prevent the ozone layer from rapidly shrinking. The protocol was therefore gradually further improved and enhanced. More and more countries joined the protocol and today, all UN member states have ratified the protocol and its amendments. At present, the Kigali Amendment agreed in October 2016 is open to ratification. Once the amendment has been ratified, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the commonly used alternatives to ozone-depleting substances, will be included in the protocol. Germany has already laid the constitutional foundations for this amendment.

In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared 16 September International Ozone Day to commemorate the date when the protocol was drafted and thus raise awareness of the importance of protecting the ozone layer for life on Earth. On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, Catherine McKenna, Canada's Environment Minister, and Tina Birmpili, Executive Secretary of the Ozone Secretariat, will launch the global Ozone Heroes campaign.

15.09.2017 | Pressreport Nr. 308/17 | International Environmental Policy