Photo: Greg Walters/Flickr. Dumping old fridges in ghauts may ultimately damage the ozone layers.

KINGSTON, Jamaica–Jamaica continues to be a regional leader in complying with provisions aimed at reducing and eventually eliminating ozone-depleting substances under the Montreal Protocol, says Ozone Officer at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Vivian Blake.

Speaking during a JIS Studio 58A interview on World Ozone Day on September 16,  Blake said that while there are some areas of ozone protection that Jamaica is still working on “we have been ahead of and continue to set an example for our Caribbean counterparts where that is concerned.”

He noted, for example, that the country has created a national Code of Practice for the refrigeration and air-conditioning sector, while several Caribbean countries are now working on their own codes.

“Jamaica has done that already. The Code of Practice was produced and revised to include information on how to manipulate natural refrigerants. It is a compendium of good refrigeration practices – how to service and install equipment and what to do with the various gases, as each of the substances have unique chemical and physical properties. We are ahead of that,” he said.

The Code of Practice is a recommended aid to signatories to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which 197 countries have ratified.

The Protocol sets national targets to phase out the manufacture and use of ozone-depleting substances, which include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Jamaica phased out the use of CFCs in refrigeration in 2006, four years ahead of the Protocol’s schedule.

Since then, the alternatives to the CFCs, the hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) have come on stream and Jamaica is actively phasing out these substances. In fact, the country is way ahead of the national target for eliminating the use of HFCs.

Jamaica has also established standards for the labelling of equipment and the transportation, safe handling and storage of refrigerants through the help of agencies such as the Bureau of Standards (BSJ).

Mr. Blake said that the Jamaica Customs Agency’s (JCA) close monitoring system to reduce the importation of illegal substances, through establishing tariff codes for refrigerants, is a practice now being looked at by Caribbean neighbors.

“Jamaica was able, through the JCA, to establish a breakout code for HFCs and we were asked by a couple Caribbean nations to assist them in that process,” the Ozone Officer shared.

Jamaica has also implemented a quota system for the amount of ozone-depleting substances it imports. Presently, only 15 individuals and companies are allowed to import such substances with the necessary permit and licence from the Ministry of Health & Wellness.

Vice President of Technology and Innovation at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), Professor Noel Brown, who is one of the authors of Jamaica’s Code of Practice, said that Jamaica has being doing “significantly well” in reducing the importation of ozone-depleting substances.

In 2013, Jamaica’s quota was established at 268 tonnes, which includes 10 tonnes held in abeyance. The quota system allows for a gradual reduction of the amount imported.

“After two years in 2015, it should be 10 per cent reduction and then by 2020, this year, we should be 35 per cent below that baseline,” Professor Brown said.

“Last year (2019) when the survey was done, we had only imported about 50 tonnes. So, there has been a substantial reduction in the amount of this gas that we are actually importing into Jamaica and that is attributed to enforcing the quota system we have in place,” he added.

At present, Jamaica is still working on assessing the environment for a certification and licensing framework for technicians to be trained in the use of alternative substances in refrigeration and developing the necessary legislation for ratifying the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which aims to phase out the production and use of some other chemicals.

The Montreal Protocol, ratified in 1987, was the first of several comprehensive international agreements enacted to halt the production and use of ozone-depleting chemicals. As a result of continued international cooperation on this issue, the ozone layer is expected to recover over time and progress has already been made.

A hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is healing and in turn reversing changes it caused to the flow of winds over the southern hemisphere, a study discovers.

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder say this is due in part to a ban on ozone depleting substances (ODS) in the 1980s. The biggest impact can be seen in the southern hemisphere jet steam – it had been moving further south due to ozone depletion, but that appears to be reversing.

The Ozone layer reduces harmful UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. The Ozone layer is present in Earth’s atmosphere (15-35km above Earth) in the lower portion of the stratosphere and has relatively high concentrations of ozone (O3).

Individuals can play a part in protecting ozone layer by refraining from using weedkillers and chemical cleaners, and by maintain air conditioners and refrigerators and disposing of them properly to prevent coolant leaks.