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UN warns on ozone depletion

The United Nations today celebrated 20 years of international efforts to repair the planet’s ozone layer, which filters out the sun’s ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer, cataracts and other ills, as an example of the world body’s value in mobilizing and coordinating multilateral action to address global issues.

“Only through such action can we hope to meet the many challenges the world currently faces,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message marking International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, pointing to the effectiveness of two related pacts – the Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol – in phasing out the use of chemicals that deplete ozone.

But more still needs to be done, he warned, noting that although the 189 Parties to the Montreal Protocol have permanently eliminated more than 1.5 million tons of annual production of ozone-destroying chemicals, developing countries are only at the half-way point in many of their obligations, while in the developed countries a number of chemicals still need to be phased out.

“Furthermore, because of the historic use of ozone-depleting compounds, the ozone layer has become thinner in most places in the world,” he added. “It is essential that we remain alert to this hazard to avoid an increase in skin cancers, cataracts and other health threats.”

Mr. Annan’s caution was echoed by UN Environment Programme Executive Director Klaus Toepfer.

“The campaign to protect the ozone layer represents an extraordinary success story – but until emissions of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances are reduced to zero, saving the ozone layer will remain an unfinished business,” he said, referring to chlorofluorocarbons.

Some 66,000 people die each year from melanoma and other skin cancers, much of it due to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.

From United Nations



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