Summary of Vienna Convention for The Protection Of Ozone Layer, 1987

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The ozone layer comprises of a sheet of three atoms of oxygen molecules that are found in the earth’s stratosphere. It is thought to provide a shield against harmful UV radiations from the sun and control the temperature structure of the Stratosphere. Ozone also acts as a greenhouse gas at a lower altitude, thereby affecting the growth of plants and acting as a respiratory irritant. Since 1960, there have been tremendous losses I n the ozone layer over the Antarctic region during the Southern Hemisphere Spring, and  more recently, a hole has appeared in the ozone layer above the Arctic region.

The depletion in the ozone layer is caused by the anthropogenic emission of certain inert gases particularly CFC’s. When these gases reach the Stratosphere they are exposed to UV radiations and break down releasing free chlorine from CFC’s and Bromine from Halons, which break up the ozone molecule and deplete the ozone layer.

The protection of ozone layer from these destructive elements is a subject of a complex regime comprising the 1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of Ozone Layer and the 1987 Montreal protocol on Substances that Deplete Ozone layer.

Vienna Convention for The Protection Of Ozone Layer, 1987

The Vienna Convention was negotiated over five years under the auspices of UNEP. It was adopted on 22nd March 1985 and it came into force on 22nd September, 1988. Till date, there are 185 States as member parties to it. It was the first treaty to address the global atmosphere issue and is open to participation by all States. The Convention has 21 Article and 2 Annexures. It established a framework for the adoption of measures ‘to protect human health and the environment against adverse effect resulting or likely to result from human activities which modify or are likely to modify the Ozone layer.

Important Articles of Vienna Convention for The Protection Of Ozone Layer

Article 1(1) of the Convention defines the ozone layer as the layer of atmosphere ozone above the planetary boundary layer. Article 2(1) the Convention does not sets any targets or timetables for actions but requires four categories of ‘appropriate measures’ to be taken by parties in accordance with means at their disposals and their capabilities, and on the basis of relevant scientific and technical considerations. These obligations are:

  • Co-operation on systematic observation;
  • Research and information exchange;
  • Adoption of appropriate legislative or administrative measures and co-operation on policies to control, limit, reduce or prevent activities that are likely to have adverse effects resulting from modifications to ozone layer;
  • Co-operations in the form of measures, procedures, standards to implement the Convention as well as with competent international bodies.

Article 2 further provides that parties are free to adopt additional domestic measures in accordance with international law [in the form of enactments, rules and regulations, policies] and maintain in force, compatible measures already taken.

Article 3 and Annexure I elaborate upon types of research and systematic observations which are to be carried out directly or through international bodies. Similarly, Article 4 and Annexure II requires co-operation in legal, scientific, technical, socio-economic and legal information relevant to the Convention, subject to the rules of confidentiality and development and transfer of technology and knowledge, taking into account the particular needs of Developing countries. [This Article of the Convention embodies within its text the Common But differentiated Responsibilities of the nations when it comes to curbing down the emission reduction.]

Article 6 provides that the parties are also required to transmit information to the Conference of Parties [CoP’s] on their implementation measures and methods. The CoP has other functions including adoptions of Protocols, additional Annexes, and amendments to protocol and annexes, and the right to take any additional action that may be required for the achievement of the purposes of the Convention.[under Articles 8-10]

In case of disputes between parties, the Convention under Article 11 lays down several methods of dispute settlement mechanisms:

  • Mediation at the request of parties under Article 11(2)
  • Voluntary submission to Arbitration and ICJ under Article 11(3)
  • Submission of disputes to Conciliation bodies under Article 11(4)

Article 18 provides that there may be no reservations to this Convention. Article 20 provides that the Secretary-General of UN shall assume the functions of Depositary of this Convention and any Protocol.

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