Today, the 16th of September 2020, marks the 33rd anniversary of the signing of the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer. Zimbabwe is joining the rest of the world to commemorate the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer commonly referred to as the “World Ozone Day”. It is a day that was set aside by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994 for all Nations of the world to reflect and take action against the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer. Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that delete the Ozone Layer which was signed on the 16th of September 1987.
The stratospheric ozone layer acts as shield to protect life on Earth from dangerous Ultra-Violet radiation from the sun. The ozone layer therefore limits harmful solar radiation from reaching the earth’s surface by allowing only sufficient Ultra-Violet radiation doses that are needed for the sustenance of life for human beings, plants and animals. Depletion of this vital protective shield causes eye cataracts, skin cancers and suppresses the immune system in human beings. It reduces crop yields, degrades synthetic materials and affects aquatic organisms. In addition most of these Ozone Depleting Substances are also greenhouse gases that trap outgoing radiation thereby contributing significantly to Global Warming and Climate Change.
My fellow Zimbabweans, this year, 2020, also marks the 35th Anniversary of the signing of the Vienna Convention for the protection of the ozone layer which was agreed upon on the 22nd March 1985. The theme for this year’s Ozone Day commemorations is “Ozone for life: 35 years of ozone layer protection”. The theme highlights the importance of the stratospheric ozone layer in protecting life on earth and how the Vienna Convention, signed 35 years ago has continued to prevent Ultra-Violet radiation induced illnesses and deaths. Life on Earth would not be possible without Ultra-Violet radiation from the sun, but the energy emanating from the sun would be too much for life on Earth to thrive were it not for the ozone layer. This stratospheric ozone layer therefore shields the Earth from most of the sun’s harmful Ultra-Violet radiation. Sunlight makes life possible, but the ozone layer makes life more possible and comfortable.
In October 2016, during the 28th Meeting of Parties in Kigali, Rwanda, Parties to the Montreal Protocol agreed to phase down Hydro-Fluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are a group of chemicals that were adopted as replacements for Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrochloroflourocarbons (HCFCs) in refrigeration and air conditioning. Although they are ozone friendly, Hydro-Fluorocarbons (HFCs) are potent Greenhouse gases that significantly cause global warming. Reducing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol will avoid 0.40C (degrees Celsius) of global warming by the end of this century while continuing to protect the stratospheric ozone layer.
The Kigali Amendment entered into force on the 1st January 2019 and my Ministry is making all the necessary measures to comply with its provisions even before we have ratified the amendment. So far, 102 Parties to the Montreal Protocol have ratified the Kigali Amendment.
As for the Government of Zimbabwe, the ratification process is at the final stages and it is my hope that Parliament will approve the ratification and we will deposit the instrument of ratification with the United Nations before the end of this year. My Ministry has already embarked on the enabling activities for the Hydro-Fluorocarbons phase down in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector.
About twenty (20) training workshops on safe use of hydrocarbon refrigerants have been conducted across the country and more than five hundred (500) refrigeration and air conditioning technicians have so far been trained. This has enabled our refrigeration and air conditioning technicians to be equipped with skills to work safely with ozone and climate friendly hydrocarbon refrigerants which are flammable if safety measures are not followed. Our Refrigeration and Air Conditioning technicians across the country have been provided with adequate tools to enable them to work safely with hydrocarbon refrigerants which are ozone and climate friendly.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as a result of concerted international efforts, the ozone layer is expected to recover by the middle of this century. In addition, the Montreal Protocol has significantly contributed to the mitigation of climate change by averting the emission of more than 135 billion tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere by simply phasing out Ozone Depleting Substances such as Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydro-Chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). The Government of Zimbabwe managed to completely phase out CFC consumption from a baseline level of 450 metric tonnes and now has reduced HCFC consumption by 35% from a baseline level of 340 metric tonnes. These reductions at national level, have contributed to the global efforts to preserve the ozone layer and the global climate system.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as we phase out the remaining Ozone Depleting Substances and introduce the ozone and climate friendly ones, illegal trade in phased out substances has increased across the globe. There is therefore need to train Customs Officers and equip them with skills, knowledge and tools to outwit these illegal Ozone Depleting Substances traders. Different smuggling schemes have been used to move banned Ozone Depleting Substances and contaminated refrigerants across the borders.
Zimbabwe is no exception to these smuggling schemes. My Ministry is working with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority to train Customs Officers and equip them with tools and skills to combat illegal trade in Ozone Depleting Substances. A total of sixteen refrigerant identifiers were distributed to all major ports of entry to help in the detection of mislabeled or contaminated refrigerants. I am happy with the support my Ministry is getting from ZIMRA Customs Officers in combating illegal trade in Ozone Depleting Substances. Since January 2010, over 350 cylinders of contaminated and mislabeled refrigerants have been seized at our ports of entry.
My Ministry is reviewing the Ozone Depleting Substances Regulations in line with latest developments under the Montreal Protocol to incorporate the control of trade in Hydro-Chlorofluorocarbons (HFCs). The new regulations will ban imports of phased out substances and make it mandatory for all refrigeration technicians to be trained and certified in the safe use of Ozone Depleting Substances alternatives according to the Zimbabwe Standard, ZW:1012:2019, which was developed by the Standard Association of Zimbabwe through the participation of my Ministry and other stakeholders.
I wish all our stakeholders an ozone and climate friendly World Ozone Day commemoration for 2020.