Scientists discovered evidence of a serious threat to the ozone layer in the 1980s, which provided the impetus for the development of the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer.
The Montreal Protocol is an international agreement under which countries worldwide are committed to phasing out ozone depleting substances and products, and to replacing these damaging chemicals with ozone-friendly substances and products.
Some of the ozone depleting chemicals which are targeted by the Montreal Protocol includes: chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) which are refrigerant, halons which are fire suppressants, and methyl bromide which is a fumigant, as well as products using them or any blends of these chemicals. The refrigerant HCFCs in particular supports cooling services which underpins many important sectors which contribute to sustainable development within the national economy namely the food, fishing, health, tourism and industrial sectors.
The “ozone hole”, which forms during the Antarctic winter in September, was created by the destruction of ozone molecules by these ozone depleting substances and can severely affect, not only humans, but also other ecosystems. Research has shown that excessive exposure to ultra-violet radiation is harmful to all life forms, from microscopic plants found in the ocean to farm animals and human beings. Humans are affected through increasing incidences of eye-cataracts, non-melanoma skin cancers, damage to genetic DNA and suppression of the efficiency of the immune system. In this sense there is a true connection between the survival of people and the natural ozone shield.
Trinidad and Tobago (TT) signed the Montreal Protocol in 1989 which addressed the depletion of the ozone layer and set obligations for countries under the protocol. Since the signing, the National Ozone Unit of the Environmental Policy and Planning Division (EPPD) developed frameworks and partnerships to aid TT in meeting its obligations.
• In 1989 all ozone depleting substances such as refrigerant, and related equipment were placed on the import negative list and required a licence for import.
• In December 2007 the import of the refrigerant chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and its blends, as well as halon were no longer allowed.
• In January 2015 the import of methyl bromide for use in non-quarantine and reshipment applications was no longer allowed.
• The process of phasing out the refrigerant hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) began in 2013, and in 2015, TT no longer allows the import of all assembled air condition (AC) and refrigeration units that use HCFCs or its blends.
• Labelling standards for refrigerants cylinders, and refrigeration and air conditioning equipment have been developed; all refrigerant imports are inspected against these standards by the TT Bureau of Standards.
• The Professional Certification Scheme for the Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Industry has been developed. This certification equips technicians with the knowledge required to deal with rapid changes within their industry.
• National guidelines for the refrigeration and air conditioning industry have also been developed as well as a national cooling strategy for TT.
The Montreal Protocol has had a tremendous effect on aiding the world in arresting the deterioration of the ozone layer, and made a landmark decision in October 2016 known as the Kigali Amendment, to include under its mandate chemicals which were used as ozone depleting alternatives but which have a negative effect on the climate, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). TT was the first country in the Caribbean and 21st country globally to sign onto the Kigali Amendment showcasing our commitment not only to protection of the ozone layer but also addressing the issue of climate change.
In keeping with our national commitments under the Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol, a phase down for hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) will commence from January 1, 2024 which will consist of a freeze at a national baseline based on historical HFC imports and a quota system for new HFC imports.
As we reflect on our achievements under the Montreal Protocol, we should note that there is still much to be done to restore the ozone layer, and all citizens should pledge to do their part to help.
We must therefore strive to be ozone friendly, which means taking individual action to reduce and eliminate impacts on the stratospheric ozone layer caused by the products that you buy, the appliances and equipment that your household or business use, or the manufacturing process used by your company. Products made with, or containing, ozone depleting substances (ODS) can contribute to ozone layer depletion. Alternatives to these products, which are also not harmful to the climate, should be used.
We must also take the necessary steps to protect ourselves from the harmful ultra violet (UV) rays emitted by the sun especially in a tropical island such as ours. Using umbrellas, long-sleeved clothing, caps with brims, sunglasses and sun block with UV protection when going into the sun protects us from skin cancer, eye cataracts, wrinkling of the skin and weakening of the immune system by shield ourselves from UV rays.
It is the responsibility of each one of us to take the necessary action to save the ozone layer. Future generations are counting on us to protect and preserve this precious natural shield. Remember environmental pride is national pride!
The above article is courtesy
The National Ozone Unit of
Trinidad and Tobago.