By Alison Kentish
DOMINICA, Nov 24 2022 (IPS)
For countries across the globe, September 16th is a day to reflect on progress in protecting the ozone layer. The United Nations designated day for the preservation of the ozone layer is marked by speeches, and educational and social media campaigns.
For the Caribbean Island of Saint Lucia, one day is not sufficient to highlight the gains made or to celebrate the 1987 signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that deplete the Ozone Layer, a landmark, universally ratified treaty.
For that country, Ozone ‘day’ caps a month-long observance, and ozone protection is a year-round effort.
“The National Ozone Unit was established in 1997 and is responsible for coordinating our activities and programmes to ensure that we meet our targets under the Montreal Protocol,” Sustainable Development and Environment Officer in Saint Lucia’s Department of Sustainable Development Kasha Jn Baptiste told IPS.
“Our main obligation is reporting on our progress with the phasing out of ozone-depleting substances and coordinating relevant projects. Other duties include education and awareness, technician training, implementation and enforcement of legislation, and coordinating partners to ensure that we meet our obligations under the convention. This is a year-round job.”
Following summer activities with youth aged 15-18, the Department of Sustainable Development held a month-long observance in September. Events included media appearances and updates on Saint Lucia’s progress toward achieving the model protocol. The Department has held awareness events at all school levels, with more activities scheduled for October.
It is part of a year-round effort to educate the public and put youth at the center of ozone protection.
“One of the most important ways to continue to highlight the ozone layer is through increased awareness. We started with ozone day and usually concentrated on education activities around that day, but we realised that we must have activities year-round. We are also encouraging the teaching of ozone issues as part of our science curriculum,” said Jn Baptiste, who is the Focal Point for the Montreal Protocol in Saint Lucia.
Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Sector
A major component of maintaining compliance with the Montreal Protocol involves stringent monitoring of the refrigeration and air conditioning sector. This includes refrigerants such as chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs, a group of ozone-depleting chemicals that have been banned but remain in older fridge and air condition models.
In Saint Lucia, the Sustainable Development Department conducts year-round training for technicians.
“The refrigeration air conditioning sector is where we use the bulk of those products and technicians are the ones servicing these items. We want them to be aware of what is happening, how the sector is transitioning, and what new alternatives are available,” Jn Baptiste told IPS.
In a 2016 amendment to the Montreal Protocol, nations agreed to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which were being used as substitutes to CFCs. Known as the Kigali Amendment, its signatories agreed that these HFCs represent powerful greenhouses gases (hydrogen, fluorine, and carbon) and contribute to climate change.
“What is really important now is that countries like Saint Lucia have targets on the Montreal Protocol. We have been saying ‘HFC-free by 2030,’ so in October, Saint Lucia will launch phase two of our HPMP, the HFC Phase Out Management Plan. That will include activities needed to help us achieve that 2030 target. We will expand on what has been done in the past and include activities for training of technicians.”
Officials are currently reviewing the country’s legislation to ensure compliance with Kigali Amendment targets.
“Our legislation needs to be updated to expand our licensing and quota system to include HFCs so that we can target these gases and control them under the Montreal Protocol,” Jn. Baptiste said.
“What is interesting is that the HFC phase-down can contribute to prevention of 0.4 degrees of warming by the end of the century. That’s important. 0.4 degrees is small, but we know that the Paris Agreement targets a 1.5 degree. The Kigali Amendment, if countries implement it, will be doing some of the work of the climate agreement. The Montreal Protocol started off with the goal of preserving the ozone layer, but it has evolved to address climate change issues – global warming issues.”
IPS UN Bureau Report
The world celebrates the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer once a year, but for Saint Lucia, the annual month-long observance highlights year-round work on ozone protection.