Ozone Layer Protection: The Mission Goes On
Every year, since 1994, countries around the world have marked the 16th of September as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer or Ozone Day. Ozone Day is a day set aside to recognize the importance of our atmosphere, and its fragile ozone layer, to our existence and to take stock of what we have done to protect it.
Although we are not able to see the ozone layer, this does not take away from its importance to our daily survival here on Earth. The ozone layer is a thin layer of ozone surrounding the planet, which protects us, as well as other species, from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. There is sound scientific evidence to show that exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays results in eye cataracts, skin cancer, the destruction of plant and small animal life-forms and the degradation of man-made materials such as paints and plastics.
In an effort to help protect the ozone layer, and life on earth as we know it, the Government of Saint Lucia, in 1994, signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that deplete the Ozone Layer. In all, 196 countries that have signed onto this important international environmental agreement and are taking action through the elimination of the substances that deplete the ozone layer.
Elimination of Ozone Depleting Substances
In 2008, two years ahead of schedule, Saint Lucia eliminated or phased out the first major group of these ozone-depleting substances, the chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. These CFC are substances that were used in our refrigerators, air conditionersand other cooling equipment in buildings and in cars, as well as in aerosol sprays.
By the year2010, CFCs had been eliminated worldwide and the world turned its attention to the next major group of ozone-depleting substances – the hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or HCFCs. Developed countries arerequired to phaseout HCFCs by 2020 and developing countries, like Saint Lucia, must do so by the year 2030. Initially, a phase-out date of 2040 was scheduled for HCFCs, but their phase-out had to be accelerated because HCFCs are also greenhouse gases that are contributing to climate change.
While carbon dioxide or CO2 is the main greenhouse gas covered by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol, HCFCs are actually more harmful to our climate than CO2. Therefore, countries that are signatories to the Montreal Protocol have agreed to take actions that will not only protect the ozone layer, but also protect our climate and the wider environment. Through the elimination of HCFCs we are also making a positive impact on our global climate.
Phase-Out of HCFCs in Saint Lucia
In Saint Lucia, the use of HCFCs is mainly in refrigeration and air conditioning products in sectors and areas as diverse as hotels, office buildings, restaurants, schools, homes, hospitals and vehicles. Air conditioning and cooling are also vital for the storage of medicines and for food preparation and storage. Therefore, it is important for us to ensure that cooling equipment is as ozone and environmentally-friendly as possible.
This year’s theme “Ozone Layer Protection: the mission goes on”, seeks to remind us that although we have successfully phased out CFCs and have begun to take action to phase out HCFCs, our work is not yet complete. There is still much to be done.
For example, the first challenge that we face is achieving the phase-out of HCFCs in a smooth and coordinated manner. In keeping with Saint Lucia’s commitment as a Party to the Montreal Protocol, the national importation of HCFCs must be reduced by 15% by January 2015. By 2020, we must phase out 35% of these imports.
These and other steps will be achieved under our national HCFC Phase-out Management Plan. Activities under this plan include the training of Customs Officers, the continued training and certification of refrigeration and air conditioning technicians, and the development of standards for the management and disposal of refrigerants. Attaining the HCFC phase-out is also dependent on the implementation of the Montreal Protocol Act and Regulations.
Another important requirement is the identification of suitable alternatives to HCFCs. Our goal is to select alternatives that are not only ozone-friendly, but also climate-friendly, cost-effective and energy-efficient.
Some alternative refrigerants are already available in Saint Lucia. An example is hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are natural refrigerants that are ozone and climate-friendly, as well as energy-efficient. Our successful transition to these alternatives will depend, in great measure, on the ability of our air conditioning and refrigeration technicians to safely handle refrigerants and provide servicing and retrofitting services. As hydrocarbon technology is advancing, I would like to encourage all technicians to become trained and certified to handle hydrocarbons.
Events to Mark Ozone Day 2014
In celebration of Ozone Day 2014, several activities have been organized by the National Ozone Unit, within the Sustainable Development and Environment Division of my Ministry. The main event will be the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation, which will establish an Illegal Trade Network for Ozone Depleting Substances. The Customs and Excise Department, Marine Police, Caribbean Customs Law and Enforcement Council (CCLEC) and my Ministry will be committing to ensure that Saint Lucia’s borders are protected from the illegal trade in ozone depleting substances (ODS). This is an important step, as the illegal trade in HCFCs and their products remains a significant challenge.
As the global community gradually eliminates these substances, it is possible that an illegal trade in HCFCs develops, where these refrigerants are smuggled into countries, taking advantage of unknowing or unscrupulous customers. The illegal trade in ODSs includes, for example, the importation of HCFC-based equipment or the importation of HCFCs without an import license and quota. I wish to encourage all importers to ensure compliance with the requirements by registering with the National Ozone Unit and obtaining the necessary licenses from the Ministry of Commerce.
I would like to thank our partners, whose efforts have been critical to the successes attained so far. The Customs and Excise Department is the guardian of our borders. The Ministry of Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs, through the Import Monitoring Unit, is critical to the issuance of import/export licenses for ODS and refrigerants. The continuing support of these two agencies, in the implementation of the import/export licensing system and monitoring illegal trade in ODS, is essential. I also take the opportunity to thank the Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards, in assisting our Ministry in developing Technical Regulations for the Handling, Storage, Transportation and Disposal of Refrigerants. This will serve to protect technicians and consumers and ensure safe and best practices.
I also acknowledge the support provided by the National Air Condition and Refrigeration Association (NARA) and importers of refrigerants and refrigerant-based equipment. Their continued collaboration is required for Saint Lucia to achieve the major milestones that are ahead of us. I urge the Association to work closely with the National Ozone Unit as we attempt to identify cost-effective alternatives and create an enabling environment for the transition to these alternatives.
Finally, I thank the business community and the general public for their cooperation. In the final analysis, we can make little progress without the support of suppliers of equipment or the consumers.
All of the actions I have outlined have become necessary as a result of the depletion of the ozone layer, through mankind’s own fault. Even though the ozone layer is slowly recovering, full recovery is not expected until 2050 and is dependent on our ability to continue to work together as a global community to phase out HCFCs and all ODS. Therefore, until the ozone layer fully heals, we need to protect ourselves from the sun’s harmful UV radiation. Let us be sun safe.
I thank you.