International Ozone Day
Creating a better future. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
The United Nations have declared September 16th as the annual International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, choosing the date on which countries first signed the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987. The Ozone Layer which surrounds the earth at a height of about 25 kilometers protects the earths' flora and fauna by absorbing some of the radiation from the sun, thus preventing harmful ultra-violet (UV) rays from reaching the earth’s surface. The increase in UV rays has been linked to an increase in some types of skin cancers, cataracts, lower plant productivity and deterioration in certain forms of marine life.
To date, 193 countries, including Israel in 1992, have signed the Montreal Protocol. The Protocol mandates that countries phase out Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) within a specified time frame. Ozone Depleting Substances are man-made chemicals containing chlorine and bromine which have high potential to deplete the Ozone Layer through chemical interactions in the earth’s stratosphere. Examples of ODS include chlorofluorocarbons used in refrigerators, air-conditioning units, foam products, aerosol sprays and chemicals used in fire extinguishers.
Owing to actions taken over the past few years, the use of Ozone Depleting Substances has decreased by more than 95% since the year the Protocol was first signed. It should be noted that this also affects the world's climate, since Ozone Depleting Substances contribute to global warming. Israel has met all the international obligations determined by the Montreal Protocol.
As Israel's largest Green organization, one of KKL-JNF's major goals is fighting climate change and participating in the international effort to protect the earth's flora and fauna. Forests planted by KKL-JNF weaken the global greenhouse effect by releasing oxygen into the atmosphere – a means of carbon sequestration. Furthermore, trees assist the ozone layer by mitigating the intensity of the sun’s rays and creating shade, thereby establishing a more pleasant microclimate. In addition, trees prevent desertification on the perimeters of arid regions and form a barrier against pollution and dust particles.
In March 2007, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon planted an olive tree in KKL-JNF's Grove of Nations at the foot of Mount Herzl and Yad VaShem. Speaking at the tree planting ceremony, the UN Secretary General praised KKL-JNF’s contribution to the environment. “The issue of world climate change is high on the UN agenda. Quite simply, it is a matter of saving the world, with the help of UN member states. I hope that this young tree I have planted today will be a symbol of the efforts to minimize the ecological damage caused by greenhouse gases.”
Each tree like the one planted by Secretary General will absorb approximately 1.5 tons of carbon from the atmosphere and will bring new life to the environment, joining over 240 million trees already planted by KKL-JNF to help curb climate change.