Vienna Convention - UPSC Notes - Environment - Thought Chakra

Vienna Convention – UPSC Notes – Environment

The Vienna Convention, enacted in 1985 and enforced from 1988, constitutes a pivotal cornerstone for global initiatives aimed at safeguarding the ozone layer. Notably, the Convention lacks legally binding targets for the reduction of CFC usage. The ozone layer protection is governed by the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the accompanying Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. These agreements boast ratification by 197 parties, rendering them the most ratified treaties in UN history. This article elucidates the Vienna Convention, providing valuable insights for the preparation of the Environment Syllabus for the UPSC Civil Service exam.

Vienna Convention – Background

  • 1970s Discovery: Studies in the 1970s highlighted that man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were reducing and altering ozone molecules in the atmosphere.
  • CFCs Usage: CFCs, stable molecules composed of carbon, fluorine, and chlorine, were extensively utilized in products such as refrigerators.
  • Global Attention: The issue of declining ozone, recognized through institutions like the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations, gained prominence in global climate discussions.
  • Scientific Advances (1985): By 1985, significant strides in scientific understanding of ozone depletion and its impact on human health and the environment prompted global concern.
  • Vienna Convention (1985): In response to the growing threat, the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer was established as a non-legally binding framework convention.
  • Framework Principles: The convention outlines principles agreed upon by many parties, serving as a foundation for international efforts to protect the ozone layer.
  • Lack of Binding Targets: Despite its significance, the Vienna Convention lacks legally binding reduction goals for CFC usage, the primary contributors to ozone depletion.
  • Montreal Protocol: The need for binding measures led to the subsequent establishment of the Montreal Protocol to address the reduction of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances

Vienna Convention

  • The Vienna Convention, the inaugural agreement of its kind, garnered signatures from all participating nations. It became effective in 1988 and attained universal ratification by 2009.
  • This widespread endorsement underscores the severity of ozone depletion during that period and showcases the global willingness to collaborate in addressing the issue.
  • The Convention’s objective was to facilitate international cooperation by sharing information regarding the impacts of human activities on the ozone layer.
  • The authors of the Convention aspired to prompt policymakers to take measures against activities contributing to ozone depletion.

Ozone Layer Depletion

  • This illustration depicts the thinning of the atmosphere’s protective ozone layer.
  • Ozone concentrations naturally vary based on factors such as temperature, weather, latitude, and altitude.
  • Natural events like volcanic eruptions can impact ozone levels, but they cannot account for the current ozone depletion.
  • Scientific evidence points to specific man-made chemicals as culprits for the creation of the Antarctic ozone hole and global ozone losses.
  • These chemicals, classified as ODS (Ozone Depleting Substances), have been widely used in products like aerosol sprays, refrigerators, air conditioners, fire extinguishers, and crop fumigation.
  • Sunlight in the stratosphere breaks down ODS, releasing halogen atoms (e.g., chlorine or bromine) that participate in a complex catalytic cycle, leading to ozone destruction.
  • At the South Pole, where frigid stratospheric temperatures create polar stratospheric clouds, ozone degradation is at its peak. These clouds, with ice crystals, amplify the surface area for chemical reactions, accelerating catalytic cycles.
  • Spring intensifies the process, as higher solar radiation levels and persistent polar stratospheric clouds expedite the destruction of ozone by sunlight.
Ozone Layer Depletion Process

Ozone

  • Ozone (O3), a reactive oxidant gas, is a significant component of atmospheric smog.
  • Present in both the upper atmosphere and at the Earth’s surface, ozone comprises three oxygen atoms.
  • Ozone’s impact on the environment and health varies, being categorized as either “good” or “bad” depending on its location in the atmosphere.
  • Despite its colorless nature, even at low concentrations, the pale blue gas known as ozone is explosive and dangerous.
  • In India, the ozone issue is primarily linked to “sunny weather,” with sunlight directly influencing ground-level ozone development.
  • Photochemical processes, facilitated by the catalytic effect of heat, lead to higher ozone concentrations, particularly during summertime.

Vienna Convention – Salient Features

  • The Vienna Convention marked a historic milestone as the first of its kind, receiving signatures from every participating member state and achieving universal ratification on September 16, 2009.
  • Aligned with the Vienna Convention’s objectives, the Montreal Protocol emerged in 1987 with the aim of curbing the production and consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODSs).
  • Recognizing the significance of this, the UN General Assembly designated September 16, 1994, as Ozone Day, commemorating the day the Montreal Protocol opened for signatures and the Vienna Convention achieved universal ratification.
  • The eighth amendment to the Montreal Protocol, known as the Kigali Agreement, was signed in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. It seeks to slash the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 80-85 percent from baseline levels by 2045.
  • Every three years, member countries convene to discuss research and systematic observations related to the ozone layer.
  • The Ozone Research Managers forum, established post-Vienna Convention, brings together experts specializing in ozone modification research.
  • Supporting developing countries in transitioning away from ozone-depleting substances, a multilateral fund is in place.
  • Two trust funds associated with the Vienna Convention are the Vienna Convention Trust Fund and the Research and Systematic Observations Trust Fund.

Vienna Convention – Purpose

  • The primary goal of the Vienna Convention is to prevent the destruction of the ozone layer.
  • Initially ratified by 28 nations on March 22nd, 1985, the Vienna Convention gained global significance.
  • A historic achievement occurred on September 16, 2009, as both the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol achieved universal ratification—a groundbreaking feat in United Nations history.

Vienna Convention – Conference of Parties

  • A Conference of Parties (COP) takes place every three years.
  • The 12th COP to the Vienna Convention occurred in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, spanning from November 23 to November 27, 2020.
  • The 11th COP to the Vienna Convention convened in Montreal, Canada, during November 2017.
  • The Vienna Convention boasts 198 signatories globally.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) serves as the secretariat for the implementation of the Vienna Convention.

Vienna Convention and India

  • India is a signatory to the Vienna Convention, having ratified it in 1991 and subsequently joining the Montreal Protocol in 1992.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change oversees the protection and implementation of the Montreal Protocol in India.
  • To ensure effective and timely implementation of the Montreal Protocol, the Ozone Cell was established.
  • By January 1, 2010, India successfully completed the phased-out of carbon tetrachloride (CTC) in adherence to the commitments of the Montreal Protocol.

Montreal Protocol

  • The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is an agreement designed to safeguard the Earth’s ozone layer by gradually phasing out compounds that harm it.
  • The phase-out strategy encompasses both the production and consumption of ozone-depleting chemicals.
  • This landmark agreement was ratified in 1989, following its consensus in 1987.
  • It stands as the inaugural United Nations convention to be universally adopted, garnering 197 Parties (comprising 196 UN member states plus the EU).

India and Protection of Ozone Layer

  • India became a member of the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances on September 17, 1992, and the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer on June 19, 1991.
  • Consequently, India endorsed the Beijing, Montreal, and Copenhagen Amendments in 2003.
  • As the largest global producer of carbon tetrachloride (CTC), methyl chloroform, methyl bromide, halon-1211, HCFC-22, halon-1301, and CFC-11, CFC-12, and CFC-113, India utilizes these ozone-depleting substances (ODS) in various applications such as foams, aerosol fumigation, electronics, firefighting, refrigeration, and air conditioning.
  • To ensure the phased-out of ODS aligning with the national industrial development strategy and complying with the Montreal Protocol, India formulated a detailed India Country Programme in 1993.
  • For the effective implementation of the India Country Programme, the Ministry of Environment and Forests established an Ozone Cell and a steering group dedicated to the Montreal Protocol.
  • In support of the India Country Programme, the Indian government granted complete exemption from Customs and Central Excise Duties for the import of goods designed specifically for non-ODS technology, aligning with the objectives of the Montreal Protocol.
  • India has played a crucial role in assisting South and Southeast Asia, as well as the Pacific, in adopting and implementing the Montreal Protocol.

Conclusion

The Vienna Convention continues to make strides in the present day. Countries involved convene every three years to address vital matters, including research and systematic observations, as well as financial and administrative issues.

FAQs on Vienna Convention

Question: What is Vienna Convention?

Answer: The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer is an international treaty established in 1985. Its primary objective is to protect the Earth’s ozone layer by regulating and phasing out the production and consumption of substances that contribute to ozone depletion. The convention serves as a framework for international cooperation and decision-making to address issues related to ozone layer protection.

Question: Why are ozone-depleting substances harmful?

Answer: Ozone-depleting substances (ODS) are harmful because they contain chlorine, bromine, or other elements that, when released into the atmosphere, can catalytically destroy ozone molecules in the stratosphere. The depletion of the ozone layer allows more ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun to reach the Earth’s surface, posing serious health risks such as skin cancers, cataracts, and harm to ecosystems. The regulation of ODS is crucial to safeguarding human health and the environment.

Question: What is Montreal Protocol?

Answer: The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is an international treaty established in 1987. It aims to phase out the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) to protect the Earth’s ozone layer. The protocol has been amended several times to include additional substances and strengthen control measures. It is recognized as one of the most successful environmental agreements, with widespread global adherence, contributing significantly to the recovery of the ozone layer.

UPSC PYQ Mains

  1. What are the main recommendations of the Montreal Protocol to protect the Ozone layer? What are the implications for India of the latest convention held at London? (UPSC 1990)
  2. Explain the phenomenon of ozone depletion, its cause and effects. What efforts are needed to reduce it? (UPSC 2007)
  3. What is ozone hole? How it caused and what is are its implications for life on Earth? (UPSC 1999)
  4. What is ozone hole? How is it formed and what effect does it have on the earth? (UPSC 1996)

UPSC PYQ Prelims

Question: The formation of ozone holes in the Antarctic region has been a cause of concern. What could be the reason for the formation of this hole? (UPSC 2016)

  • (a) Presence of prominent tropospheric turbulence; and inflow of chlorofluorocarbons.
  • (b) Presence of prominent polar front and stratospheric clouds; and inflow of chlorofluorocarbons.
  • (c) Absence of polar front and stratospheric clouds; and inflow of methane and chlorofluorocarbons.
  • (d) Increased temperature at polar regions due to global warming.

Answer: (b)

Question: Consider the following statements: Chlorofluorocarbons, known as ozone-depleting substances, are used (UPSC 2012)

  1. in the production of plastic foams
  2. in the production of tubeless tyres
  3. in cleaning certain electronic components
  4. as pressurizing agents in aerosol cans

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  • (a) 1, 2 and 3 only
  • (b) 4 only
  • (c) 1, 3 and 4 only
  • (d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Answer: (d)

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