May 19, 2024

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Protecting Our Skies: English-Speaking African Countries Gather in Kigali to Discuss Ozone Protection

By Justin Kayiranga

From May 8-10,2023, the National Ozone Officers of English-speaking African countries gather in Kigali to exchange experiences, develop skills, and share knowledge to fulfill their obligations under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

The meeting is also part of the Regional Network service provided by OzonAction’s Compliance Assistance Programme (CAP) to (developing) countries as part of its role as an Implementing Agency of the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol.

Martine Uwera, who serves as the focal point for the Montreal Protocol in Rwanda, the host country, stated that the meeting aims to ensure that all participating countries leave with a shared understanding and knowledge that will facilitate a reduction in the consumption and production of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) to67.5% of their baselines by January1,2025.

Martine Uwera, who serves as the focal point for the Montreal Protocol in Rwanda

She said “We are looking together at how we can coordinate our actions as developing countries in order to controlling the emission of harmful gases that deplete ozone layer. So, we are expecting, at the end of the workshop, to set up a joint network that will enable us in implementation progress by supporting each other to achieve our goals as English speaking countries in Africa.”

While there is still much work to be done, the progress made by African countries in implementing the treaty is an encouraging development that highlights the importance of global cooperation in addressing environmental challenges.

However, there are still some challenges on the road to ozone layer recovery, including the illegal trade of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) in certain African countries. This was revealed by Patrick Salifu, the regional coordinator for the Montreal Protocol in Anglophone African countries.

“You find a country is doing all it can do to phase out but beside you find other people illegally trading ODS. Mainly it’s the issue of illegal trade, in most of the African countries, that is undermining the efforts that we are doing in ozone layer recovery.” says Salifu.

Hope for Ozone layer recovery

Despite these challenges, there is hope for the restoration of the ozone layer. Recent studies have shown that the ozone layer is on track to heal completely by the middle of this century.

This is due to various initiatives and policies, including the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which was adopted in 2016. The amendment was designed to eliminate the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Among other facts, it should be noted that various African countries, such as Rwanda and Kenya, have made significant progress in implementing the Montreal Protocol. They have accomplished this by prohibiting the importation, exportation, and use of products containing ODS, and have implemented strict enforcement measures to ensure compliance.

Patrick Salifu affirms that with continued efforts endowed by countries, ozone layer is expected to be restored by 2060.

“You can hear figures like 90% of the gases that were destroying Ozone layer were successfully phased out. But restoration will take time that’s why it is predicted that by 2060, the ozone layer will get restored to its original shape.”

A thematic workshop is expected to facilitate discussion between Ozone Officers and Customs Authorities from 28 participating countries during the meeting being held in Kigali.

The workshop aims to identify current practices and challenges and to brainstorm and agree on an approach to strengthen the enforcement of licensing systems. Customs managers will be involved as they are the ones who deal with the importation and exportation of goods in their respective countries.

About Ozone layer

The ozone layer is a thin layer in the Earth’s atmosphere that absorbs most of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, protecting life on Earth from the harmful effects of this radiation. However, human activities such as the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have caused a depletion of this protective layer, leading to increased cases of skin cancer, cataracts and other health issues.

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