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Despite signs of recovery, UN warns ozone layer still vulnerable for next decade

Despite signs of recovery, UN warns ozone layer still vulnerable for next decade

Despite good signs of recovery, the ozone layer will remain vulnerable for the next decade or so, even if countries comply with international agreements to protect it, according to a new report released today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The executive summary of the report, released to coincide with the observance of the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, suggests that the concentration of ozone depleting substances in the upper atmosphere is now at or near its peak. As a consequence, scientists believe human-influenced disturbances on Earth's protective shield will now be "at or near their largest."

At the same time, the report shows that the world has been making steady progress towards the recovery of the ozone layer, with the latest scientific results showing the total amount of ozone depleting chemicals in the lower atmosphere continuing to decline, if slowly.

UNEP says the findings reinforce the need for strengthened political commitment to ensure the continued compliance by nations with the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which has been ratified by 183 countries.

"Despite the concerns, the overall message from the report is that the Montreal Protocol is working, and the probability of a smaller future Arctic ozone hole is good news indeed," said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer.

In a message marking the Day, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged all countries to meet their commitments under the Montreal Protocol, since a failure to comply would delay or even prevent the recovery of the ozone layer. "The success achieved so far in reducing the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances in industrial countries should give us hope that we will complete this task in developed and developing countries alike," he said.

For his part, UN General Assembly President Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic said it has been very encouraging to see, in many countries, the political will to phase out ozone depleting chemicals. "The experience of the past decade has shown that the international community has been able to allocate substantial resources to help industry adopt cleaner production methods," he noted. "In the coming years, it is essential to continue this process and adhere to the schedules and timetables in accordance with provisions of the Montreal Protocol."