16 September 2019: The world celebrated the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer under the theme, ‘32 Years and Healing.’ The theme recognizes more than three decades of international cooperation to protect the ozone layer and the climate, and highlights the need to maintain momentum to ensure healthy people and a healthy planet.

Ozone-depleting substances (ODS) allow ultraviolet (UV) rays to reach the earth, increasing the incidents of skin cancers, eye cataracts and compromised immune systems and causing harm to forests and agricultural lands. The Day highlighted the role of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in the phase-out of 99% of ODS in air conditioners, refrigerators and other products. As a result of these actions, the 2018 Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion found that parts of the ozone layer have recovered between 1% and 3% per decade since 2000. At projected rates, the Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone are expected to heal completely by the 2030s, while the Southern Hemisphere is anticipated to recover by the 2050s, and the Polar Regions by 2060s. In addition, efforts to protect the ozone layer have helped to avert an estimated 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) emissions between 1990-2010.

As we rightly focus our energies on tackling climate change, the world must be careful not to neglect the ozone layer.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) celebrated these successes on the Day while calling for “remaining vigilant and tackling any illegal sources of ODS as they arise.” UNEP also emphasized the importance of implementing the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which focuses on phasing down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Implementing the Kigali Amendment will help to continue ozone layer protection while also contributing to avoiding global temperature rise and ensuring that efforts to regenerate the ozone layer continue to support climate action.

In his message for the Day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the Montreal Protocol as an “inspirational example” of how humanity is capable of cooperating to address a global challenge as well as a “key instrument for tackling today’s climate crisis.” Guterres commended the 81 nations that have ratified the Kigali Amendment, and called on all other countries to ratify and implement the Amendment, declaring that implementing the Amendment “will be front and center for climate action” and meeting all the SDGs. Guterres concluded that, as we “rightly focus our energies on tackling climate change,” the world “must be careful not to neglect the ozone layer” and must stay alert to the threat posed by illegal use of ODS, including through improved regulations and enforcement and continued monitoring and reporting systems. [UN News Story] [WMO Press Release] [World Ozone Day 2019 Website] [UN Secretary-General Statement]