Baba’s Explainer – Ozone Hole Recovery

  • IASbaba
  • January 13, 2023
  • 0
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  • GS-2: International Organisations
  • GS-3: Basic Science; Environmental Conservation

Context: The ozone ‘hole’, once considered to be the gravest danger to planetary life, is now expected to be completely repaired by 2066.

How was Ozone layer damaged?
  • Ozone, chemically a molecule having three Oxygen atoms, or O3, is found mainly in stratosphere (10 -50 km from the Earth’s surface).
  • It is critical for planetary life, since it absorbs ultraviolet rays coming from the Sun. UV rays are known to cause skin cancer and many other diseases and deformities in plants and animals. Therefore, Ozone layer acted as Earth’s natural sunscreen.
  • In the 1980s, scientists began to notice a sharp drop in the concentration of ozone. This drop was much more pronounced over the South Pole. This thinning of the ozone layer over Antarctica came to be known as the ozone hole.
  • Scientists had figured out that the chief cause of ozone depletion was the use of a class of industrial chemicals that contained chlorine, bromine or fluorine.
  • The most common of these were the chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, that were used extensively in the air conditioning, refrigeration, paints, and furniture industries.
  • The ozone hole over Antarctica is the biggest during the months of September, October, and November.
What is MONTREAL PROTOCOL and how has it improved the situation?
  • The ozone hole has been steadily improving since 2000, thanks to the effective implementation of the Montreal Protocol.
  • Montreal protocol is an international environmental treaty for phasing out of production and consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances, which came into force in 1987.
  • It has been reported that nearly 99 per cent of the substances banned by the Montreal Protocol have now been eliminated from use, resulting in a slow but definite recovery of the ozone layer.
  • It is the first treaty in the history of the United Nations to achieve universal ratification.
  • t is a time-bound process that is subjected to phase down the use of harmful Ozone-depleting substances in different timetables by developed and developing countries.
  • There is a specific responsibility of all the member parties to control the ODS trade, phase out the groups of ODS, report annual data, and control the import and export of the depletion.
  • Though Developed and developing countries are equal contributors, they have differentiated responsibilities. Under the Montreal Protocol, developing countries were not bound to cut down ODs if they had a high domestic need.
  • The developing countries have also given technical assistance as per the suggestion by the UN.
  • In order to help the developing countries with the provision of the Protocol, the Multilateral fund was established in 1991. UNEP, UNIDO, UNDP, and the Work bank were responsible for implementing the Fund activities. It assisted the developing countries that have a per capita ODS consumption of less than 0.3 kg
  • The Protocol is governed by the Meeting of the parties. These parties are aided by the Ozone Secretariat. The Ozone Secretariat is based in Nairobi at the UNEP headquarters.

Outcome of Montreal Protocol

  • The latest scientific assessment has said that if current policies continued to be implemented, the ozone layer was expected to recover to 1980 values by 2066 over Antarctica, by 2045 over the Arctic, and by 2040 for the rest of the world.

What is Kigali Amendment to Montreal protocol?
  • Parties to the Montreal Protocol, under the Kigali Amendment, will phase down production and consumption of Hydrofluorocarbons, commonly known as HFCs.
    • The Montreal Protocol, effective from 1989, is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances (especially chlorofluorocarbons (CFC)) that are responsible for ozone depletion.
  • HFC were introduced as non-ozone depleting alternative to CFC such as R-12 and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) such as R-21.
  • While HFCs do not deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, they have high global warming potential ranging from 12 to 14,000, which have adverse impact on climate.
  • Recognizing the growth in use of HFCs, especially in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning sector the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, reached another agreement in 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda to add HFCs to the list of controlled substances and approved a timeline for their gradual reduction by 80-85 per cent by the late 2040s.
  • All amendments and adjustments of the Montreal Protocol, prior to the Kigali Amendment have Universal support.
  • It has divided the signatory parties into three groups-
    • The first group consists of rich and developed economies like USA, UK and EU countries who will start to phase down HFCs by 2019 and reduce it to 15% of 2012 levels by 2036.
    • The second group consists of emerging economies like China, Brazil as well as some African countries who will start phase down by 2024 and reduce it to 20% of 2021 levels by 2045.
    • The third group consists of developing economies and some of the hottest climatic countries like India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia who will start phasing down HFCs by 2028 and reduce it to 15% of 2024-2026 levels till 2047.
  • It also has a provision for a multilateral fund for developing countries for adaptation and mitigation.
  • The phase down of HFCs is expected to
    • Prevent the emission of up to 105 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases
    • Avoid up to 0.5 degree Celsius of global temperature rise by 2100, while continuing to protect the ozone layer.

India and Montreal Protocol

  • India became a Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer on 19 June 1992 and since then has ratified the amendments to the Montreal Protocol and has successfully met the phase out targets of all the Ozone Depleting Substances as per the Montreal Protocol Schedule.
  • As per Kigali agreement, India will complete its phase down of HFCs in 4 steps from 2032 onwards with cumulative reduction of 2024-2026 levels by
    • 10% in 2032
    • 20% in 2037
    • 30% in 2042
    • 85% in 2047.
Can the Montreal protocol model be used to tackle Climate Action?
  • The success of the Montreal Protocol in repairing the ozone hole is often offered as a model for climate action. It is argued that emissions of greenhouse gases can also similarly be curtailed to arrest rapidly rising global temperatures.
  • The use of ODSs, though extensive, was restricted to some specific industries. Their replacements were readily available, even if at a slightly higher cost initially. The impact of banning these ozone-depleting chemicals was therefore limited to these specific sectors.
  • The case of fossil fuels is very different. Emission of carbon dioxide is inextricably linked to the harnessing of energy. Almost every economic activity leads to carbon dioxide emissions.
  • The emissions of methane, the other major greenhouse gas, comes mainly from agricultural practices and livestock.
  • The impact of restraining greenhouse gas emissions is not limited to a few industries or economic sectors, but affects the entire economy, and also has implications for the quality of life, human lifestyles and habits and behaviours.
  • Climate change, no doubt, is a far more difficult and complex problem than dealing with ozone depletion.

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