International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer
Ozone is a naturally occurring but rare gas and its molecules are made up of three atoms of oxygen. Ozone forms in the stratosphere between 10 and 50 kilometres above the earth as incoming ultraviolet radiation breaks molecular oxygen (i.e. two atoms) into atomic oxygen (a single atom). When a free oxygen atom encounters an oxygen molecule, they may bond to form a molecule of ozone (O3). Ninety percent (90%) of ozone exists in the stratosphere and the upper atmosphere. Ozone is essential for life on earth, as the ozone layer absorbs most of the harmful ultraviolet-B radiation from the sun and filters out lethal ultraviolet (UV-C radiation). The amount of ozone above the surface of the earth varies with location on time scales that range from daily to seasonal. The variations are caused by the stratospheric winds and the chemical production and destruction of ozone.
Why protect the ozone layer?
The amount of damage done to the ozone layer depends on the type of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) or chemical used. The destructive capacity of a chemical depends amongst other factors on how long the chemical persists in the atmosphere before being broken down itself. The Ozone Depleting Potential (ODP) of a chemical gives a measure of the ability to destroy stratospheric ozone. Ozone Depletion leads to excessive UV-B radiation. Excessive UV-B radiation leads to:
- More skin cancers and eye cataracts.
- Less productivity of plants.
- Loss of immunity to diseases.
- Adverse effects on plastics.
Due to the abovementioned a continued effort to undertake awareness campaigns to the communities (young and old) country wide (in various provinces) is also vital. This event has proven that it can be achieved through the three spheres of government.
The issues of ozone depletion and climate change have been at the forefront of the international community’s environmental agenda for several years. It is now generally accepted that man-made chemicals and human activities are having significant adverse impact on the global climate. It is however, worth noting that it difficult to talk or discuss matters that relate to ozone layer preservation or preservation and not discuss matters that relate to climate change. Stratospheric ozone depletion is directly related to the issue of climate change. Ozone depletion produces an indirect cooling effect, while an abundance of ODSs results in the warming of the atmosphere. This process is quite complex. Furthermore, some of the substances that destroy the ozone layer contain various levels of ODP and global warming potential (GWP).
South Africa has significant consumption of the ODSs such as Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) in several subsectors such as:
- Refrigeration and air-conditioning assembly and installation
- Refrigeration and air-conditioning servicing and maintenance
- Manufacture of extruded polystyrene
- Aerosol production (minor use)
- Manufacture of rigid and integral skin polyurethane foam
- Manufacture of extruded polystyrene
- Quarantine and pre-shipment (QPS) of agricultural goods, structural and soil fumigation
The abovementioned substances give emphasis that most of the consumption of ODSs in South Africa is largely in the refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) sector which is followed by the foaming industry. The chemical industry in South Africa contributes to the development of other industrial sectors. Industry in the country imports these substances for manufacturers who produce various products for sales within the borders of the country and beyond. Furthermore, others export or supply other African countries (e.g. Swaziland, Tanzania, Botswana etc). Parallel to the import, export and manufacturing process jobs are created and others sustained. There are approximately 5,000 skilled technicians who service, install or repair refrigeration and air-conditioning systems. There are also more than 1,500 service contractors who employ two or more skilled technicians.
Existing Mechanism to Manage ODSs in South Africa
South Africa does not produce the ODSs but only imports them into the country. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) as the focal point for the implementation of the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer has a responsibility to protect the environment and the well-being of people according to the Constitution of the country. In order to control the consumption of the ODS, DEA has developed the Regulations for the Phasing-out and Management of Ozone Depleting Substances from the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, 2004 (Act No. 39 of 2004). The management of the ODSs in South Africa is done by DEA in collaboration with South African Revenue Services (SARS), International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC), Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) with regular engagements with industry stakeholders that deal with ozone depleting substances. Any company that wish to Import ODSs into the country must apply to the DEA for a recommendation. After considering the quota allocated to that particular company, DEA then recommends to ITAC for the issuance of the Permit to import such chemical. It is through the quota allocation system that ODS are being managed and gradually phased out as required by the Montreal Protocol.
Why the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer
The Montreal Protocol Convention under the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) seeks to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the ozone depleting substances. South Africa is party to both the Vienna Convention for the protection of Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that deplete the ozone layer. TheInternational Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer is celebrated annually on the 16th September. This day has been marked by the UNEP to commemorate the 16 September 1987, when a group of twenty-four countries came together and signed the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer.
Purpose of the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer
The purpose is to bring awareness on the following:
- The subject of effective chemicals management (focusing on ODSs) in South Africa
- Matters that relate to the destruction of the ozone layer to the communities and industry
- Career paths on Chemicals Management (ozone preservation) including environmental management and waste management
- Media statement: MEC Somyo commemorates World Ozone Day in East London, Eastern Cape Province
- Media statement: Deputy Minister Ms Barbara Thomson to commemorate World Ozone Day
- Flyer: International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer.