A Message from The Hon. Adrian Forde M.P., Minister of Environment and National Beautification.
My Fellow Barbadians,
I am thankful for the opportunity to deliver my first message as Minister of Environment and National Beautification in recognition of International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, which is celebrated annually on September 16th. “Ozone for Life: 35 Years of Ozone Layer Protection” has been chosen as this year’s theme in commemoration of the signing of the international environmental agreement known as the Vienna Convention for the Protection of The Ozone Layer thirty five years ago, and the global actions that followed to protect the ozone layer. The ozone layer is found between 15km and 50km above the earth’s surface, it surrounds the entire globe and, protects all life on earth from about 99% of the harmful Ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation that is emitted by the sun.
Figure 1: Ultraviolet Protection by the Stratospheric Ozone Layer [Source: Twenty Questions and Answers about the Ozone Layer: 2018]
The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer was developed as a result of increasing scientific evidence that proved that certain chemicals used in various applications such as refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC), pesticides, fire extinguishers, laboratories, foam production, solvents and metered dose inhalers, were being released into the atmosphere causing a hole to form in the layer over Antarctica and that the incidence of the thinning of the layer was spreading.
Ozone depletion can have devastating impacts on human health and the environment. The science has shown that the damage to the protective ozone shield was causing over-exposure to UV-B radiation which has manifested in human cases of skin cancer and cataracts. Additionally, it also causes damage to crops and wild plants, animals and microbes in natural ecosystems both on land and in the oceans. These ecosystems provide the essential ‘ecosystem services’ that we all rely on for clean air and clean water, and to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide which contributes to climate change.
The signing of the landmark Vienna Convention provided a legal document for all countries of the world to acknowledge ozone layer depletion as a global concern, and to develop the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer specifically aimed at:
- identifying and monitoring the production, trade (import, export) and use of chemicals that deplete the ozone layer and those that are non-ozone depleting but have high global warming potentials (GWP); and
- developing practical global schedules towards (i) the complete ban of ninety-six (96) ozone depleting substances by 2030, and (ii) a reduction in consumption by 80% of established national baselines for eighteen (18) chemicals with high global warming potentials (GWP) by 2045 for Barbados and other developing countries.
Although Barbados does not manufacture these chemicals and our consumption results in significantly less release of these chemicals into the atmosphere than developed and some other developing countries, the people and environment of this country would undoubtedly, be among those hardest hit by the resultant negative impacts. If the thinning of the layer was allowed to continue unabated, then life in this country and on earth as a whole would become impossible. For Barbados and many other Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the stakes were and remain too high not to act as we depend heavily on the natural environment for our social, health and economic wellbeing. We therefore have a duty to take action to protect the land, sea and atmosphere which we need to survive. It is with this understanding and thoughtful consideration of the resulting obligations that the decision was taken for Barbados to become a Party to both the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and its Montreal Protocol.
Signing on to the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol was only the first in a series of decisive actions required to reduce emissions of ozone depleting substances into the atmosphere. From inception, the Ministry has embraced and utilised a multi-stakeholder and holistic approach to executing the work required at the national level. Some key activities included:
- The execution of education and awareness activities for stakeholders and the general public e.g. presentations to students, publication and dissemination of education and awareness materials, notices in the local newspapers and appearances on radio and television;
- the execution of capacity building activities such as training workshops for technicians in the Refrigeration and Air conditioning (RAC) installation and servicing sector, enforcement officers and other stakeholders; and
- the implementation of a licensing and quota system and other policies programmes and activities geared toward banning the importation of ozone depleting substances and, more recently, commencing preparations to reduce the consumption of high-GWP chemicals with the view to transitioning toward the use of non-ozone depleting, climate friendly and energy efficient alternatives in all sectors.
Of particular note and worthy of celebration, in compliance with obligations under the Montreal Protocol, this year Barbados is on track to realize a 35% reduction (relative to the national baseline) in the consumption of ozone depleting refrigerant gases that contain hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).
To stay the course, we Barbadians must employ a greater collective effort to stop the importation of out-of-date and less energy efficient equipment that utilise refrigerants such as R22, R406A, R408A and R409A, just to name a few. These refrigerants are being phased out to enable the transition to non-ozone depleting, climate friendly and energy efficient alternatives that are available on the market. We must also continue to encourage an increase in recovery and reuse of refrigerant gases wherever possible and enhance our knowledge about the new refrigerants that are entering the RAC market. Heightened vigilance at ports of entry will be paramount to the success of our local efforts to guard against illegal trade which ultimately hurts the consumer and the country.
In the on-going circumstances, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused great uncertainty resulting in severe social and economic hardship for the people of Barbados. As the Government continues to do its best to adjust in all spheres, and to address the existing and emerging challenges, it is important to galvanize the collective will and effort of Barbadians, and those who support our work regionally and internationally, towards taking decisive action guided by science for the benefit of the population. This approach mirrors that which resulted in the formulation of the ozone treaties at a critical juncture 35 years ago. The Government will continue to leverage and strengthen existing partnerships to ensure sustainability and success, and to remain relevant in our contribution to this extremely important multilateral regime.
As we approach the 2030 global ban on refrigerants and other chemicals that deplete the ozone layer and move toward the introduction of licensing for other high-GWP refrigerants and other chemicals, we do so with a plan that aims to support the transformation of the way we treat the environment and the way we do business by transitioning towards the use of non-ozone depleting, climate friendly and energy efficient alternatives and equipment.
Protecting the Ozone Layer and the climate continues to be critical for our own survival and that of future generations, and is fundamental to achieving our sustainable development aspirations. Therefore, I encourage all of us to be responsible citizens in our various spheres of operation and influence, and stand together as one to remain strict guardians of our heritage and firm craftsmen of our fate.
I thank you.
The Hon. Adrian Forde M.P.