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Nov 13, 2000

Scientists meet to protect ozone layer

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In 1997 Belize became a member of the Montreal Protocol, an environmental agreement which was developed in 1989 to address the issue of the ozone layer in our atmosphere and its alarming rate of shrinkage. To date there are one hundred and seventy three countries that have ratified the protocol along with its four amendments. Since Belize ratified the Protocol, it has actively participated in the Caribbean Regional Network of Ozone Officers. Those officers are presently in Belize to hold a follow-up meeting where they will exchange updated information and what steps each country has taken to protect the Ozone layer.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

Belize has undertaken a plan of action to phase out and eventually eliminate Ozone Depleting Substances. It is the chlorofluorocarbons or CFC’s that have been the prime culprits affecting the ozone layer.

Martin Alegria, Ozone Officer, Belize

“The key there is chloro, the chlorine molecules in CFC’s. When these CFC’s reach–after being used a lot–reaches the stratosphere where the ozone layer is at, it reacts with the ozone. The oxygen three breaks it into oxygen two, which is the gas that we breathe and a free cell of oxygen and that then disassociates from the ozone and mixes with the chlorine to form its own compound and that in itself breaks down the ozone into oxygen. The more you breakdown, degrade that, the more disassociation of the ozone into oxygen, that’s where we will have less and less layer of the ozone that protects us from the UVB radiation.”

“If that UV, especially UVB, would reach at such concentration and if the ozone layer was not there, it would affect the human and plants, the ecology on a whole in terms of the increase in skin cancers in people or in terms of cataracts in eyes, in terms of biotic affecting certain aquatic species, trees, plants, all of that would be affected because of the concentration of UVB reaching earth. What the ozone layer does, is that it absorbs and filters these and the amount coming down is less than what it is.”

The first step Belize made after it ratified the Montreal Protocol was to establish a national programme. The team includes representatives from government, NGO’s and the private sector. They will not only be advisors to government, but the members have been charged with the responsibility to conduct research on how much of ODS’ are used in the country and what can be done to stop the frequent use of such substances. The study conducted in 1998/99 revealed that the majority of ozone depleters are used in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector. Ozone Officer Martin Alegria says this is where the programme is now focussed.

Martin Alegria, Ozone Officer, Belize

“In the refrigeration sector we do have ODS that are being used. For example we have the refrigerant number eleven, R11, the refrigerant twelve, R12, which are basically freons. They are R12′s, which are used in the air-conditioning system especially vehicles, mobile air conditioning. And that’s the target area we are trying to begin with in trying to replace those R12′s with R134-A which is the substitute develop already for the mobile air conditioning systems.”

In his address to Caribbean Ozone Officers, Minister of the Environment Johnny Briceno says we cannot sit idly by and hope for the best.

Johnny Briceno, Minister of the Environment

“We have prohibited, since 1996, the manufacturing of substances harmful to the ozone layer. We prohibit using ODS on the production of foams and solvents, we don’t use halons in fire fighting equipment, and we’ve banned the importation of methyl bromide.”

The national ozone team will also launch a public awareness campaign.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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