Fight for our ozone
Our ozone layer was severely depleted by the end of the 20th century. And the world was beginning to take note, making moves to protect atmospheric concentrations of ozone, a gas that protects life on Earth from the sun’s radiation.
The hole in the ozone layer above New Zealand was already causing damage to animals, plants and humans, with an increasing number of cases of skin cancer and cataract damage.
1987 marked a major milestone in protecting the ozone layer when the Montreal Protocol under the Vienna Convention was agreed. The agreements are designed to reduce ozone-depleting substances with gases containing chlorine, fluorine and bromine being released into the atmosphere. The two treaties are the first and only to achieve worldwide ratification of 197 parties.
Here in New Zealand, the first Ozone Layer Protection Act came into law in 1990. It fulfils New Zealand’s obligations under the Montreal Protocol.
At the time, the Environment Minister Rob Storey said in Parliament on 17 December 1991 that “the Ozone Layer Protection Act is working well in its aim to reduce New Zealand's consumption of ozone-depleting substances. Consumption of chlorofluorocarbons has dropped by almost three-quarters - 70 per cent - since 1986”. The Act has since been replaced by the Ozone Layer Protection Act 1996.
New Zealand complied with all its responsibilities, and is currently looking at phasing down hydrofluorocarbons following an amendment to the protocol in October this year.
A 2014 report by the United Nations Environment Programme showed some great progress, with the Antartic and global ozone layer expected to return to 1980 levels around the middle of this century, as long as the parties continued to comply with the protocol.