Yemen’s efforts to protect the ozone layer [Archives:2008/1194/Health]

September 29 2008

By: Ismail Al-Ghabri
Faisal Ahmed Nasser Bin Ali Gaber, director of the National Ozone Unit of the Environment Protection Authority, answers some questions about Yemen's efforts and commitments towards protecting the Ozone layer.

What is the ozone layer?

Ozone is a molecule which makes up a layer surrounding the earth's atmosphere. This layer absorbs 93-99% of the sun's high frequency ultra-violet (UV) light which is potentially damaging to life on earth. It is 12 to 30 kilometers high. The ozone is vitally important to life as it absorbs biologically harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation emitted from the Sun.

Due to the increased emission of synthetic materials that have been used since the 1930s, particularly hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and carbonate substances, the ozone layer has been corroded and this has resulted in harmful radiation reaching Earth and causing many diseases such as skin cancer, eye diseases and immune deficiency.

The International community signed conventions to protect the ozone layer in 1985, but on 16 September 1987 the first executive protocol was signed to implement the previous conventions, defining a specific number of substances as being a threat to the ozone layer. It is to mark this day, that 16 September has become International Ozone Day.

What are the Yemeni efforts to protect the ozone layer?

In response to the international community, the Yemeni government signed the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer in 1985 and the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987, in addition to signing amendments to the protocol in London in 1990, in Copenhagen in 1992 and in Montreal in 1997.

The Yemeni government established the National Ozone Unit, working within the framework of the Environment Protection Authority since 1999, to carry out Yemeni commitments to the protocol. Since that time, the Yemeni government has decreased the consumption of HCFCs from 1071 tons in1998 to 271 tons in 2007.

Does Yemen report its progress in its commitments to the Montreal protocol, regarding the phase-out of ozone-consuming substances?

Not only Yemen, but all the countries that signed the protocol, are committed to sending annual reports regarding their consumption, import and export of ozone-consuming substances under watch of the protocol. According to the seventh article of the Montreal protocol, all signatories to the protocol should make public this information within a period not exceeding nine months of the end of the year in which it was gathered. If any party delays in producing this data, the delay will be discussed during the meeting held at the end of every year for all the protocol's signatories.

A lot of governmental facilities in Yemen use freons. Is there any coordination between the Ozone Unit and these facilities? [Freons are the odorless, colorless, non-flammable, and non-corrosive chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants which are used in air conditioning and refrigeration systems.]

In fact, the government offices that use ozone-consuming substances are not many compared with those in the private sector. The Ministry of Fish Wealth and the Yemeni Economic Corporation are the most public institutions to use ozone-consuming substances followed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Sana'a University and the Land Transportation Corporation.

In the maintenance sector of refrigerators and air-conditioners, the Ministry of Technical Education and Vocational Training prepares and qualifies the personnel specialized for carrying out maintenance.

We enjoy a really good coordination with this ministry. In a first step, we teach national trainers refrigerating system maintenance according to the Montreal protocol, and include new ozone-friendly ideas in the curricula of the technical and vocational institutes. In a second step, Yemen's technical institutes train students in these new techniques according to Montreal protocol.

In fact, all institutions that use ozone-consuming substances -whether private or public- should follow the related legislations without the need for any special coordination with ministries, except with the Ministry of Agriculture who should monitor the use of ozone-depleting substances by farmers.

Does the Ozone Unit work on training people in how to use refrigerating and air-conditioning devices?

Yes, it does. As I mentioned, there is a unit that coordinates with the Technical and Vocational Ministry to train refrigerating and air-conditioning maintenance employees in two areas. The first is secure practices in maintenance to decrease the use of freons. The second focuses on the decrease in the use of more ozone-consuming substances in repair. After 2010, the import of these ozone-depleting substances will be impossible.

Since its establishment, the Ozone Unit has exerted efforts to issue legislations which are convenient to control the import of ozone-consuming substances and the devices that use them. In this regard, Cabinet resolution number 275 was issued in 2006 to control the import of these substances.

The resolution includes a licensing system and a system to control the quantity of annual imports, in order to limit the use of ozone-consuming substances.

Unfortunately, the application of this resolution is difficult as the devices that consume ozone are similar to those which don't. Therefore, distinguishing harmful devices from those which are not harmful is not easy, and creates a lot of obstacles for the Customs Authority.

This year 2008, The International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer was commemorated all over the world under the theme 'Montreal Protocol-Global partnership for global benefits'. On 19December 1994, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the establishment of the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer to be celebrated on 16 September every year.