15TH September 2006
New Delhi, India
His Excellency Minister of Environment and Forests, Hon. Dignitaries, high level officials from various Ministries, teachers and students from New Delhi schools, friends, ladies and gentlemen, on the occasion of the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, it is my pleasure on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme to join our colleagues from the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and the World Health Organisation to launch the new OzonAction Education Pack. Ozone Day is the annual event in which countries around the world commemorate the signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer on 16 September 1987. The theme for this year’s Ozone Day is “Protect the Ozone Layer: Save Life on Earth”.
The most precious life is of course that of our children, and to help protect them, UNEP, UNESCO and WHO have joined together to provide primary school teachers with practical, hands-on and entertaining curricula material to educate their students about the protective role of the ozone layer and the causes and consequences of its depletion. The OzonAction Education Pack contains an entire teaching and learning programme, based on basic knowledge, practical skills and participation, for students to learn about concrete and simple solutions to protect the ozone layer and safely enjoy the sun.
Every year, there are between two and three million new cases of non-melanoma skin cancers and more than 130,000 new melanoma skin cancer cases worldwide. An estimated 66 000 deaths occur annually from melanoma and other skin cancers. The cause of many of these skin cancers and an estimated 3 million cases of cataract blindness is ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun and children, who are both most vulnerable and most exposed, are disproportionately affected.
We know that by reducing over-exposure of children and adolescents to the sun, we can substantially reduce the risk of contracting skin cancers, cataracts and other conditions which might only appear much later in life. As a significant part of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV comes before the age of 18, educating children about the dangers of UV exposure is key to preventing these consequences. It is education that makes the difference. UNEP, UNESCO and WHO, in cooperation with local partners, are launching the Education Pack simultaneously on three continents — Nairobi, New Delhi and Santiago de Chile – to signify the global nature of this service and to highlight the common needs of children in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
A major scientific assessment conducted under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organisation and UNEP has just announced clear evidence that the destructive impact of ozone depleting chemicals in the stratosphere has started to decline. However, that good news is tempered by the fact that the total recovery of the ozone layer over all latitudes is now anticipated to be by 2065, which is 15 years later than previously thought.
I am now looking around at the children here in this room: this means that the children like you who are learning about safe sun practices from the OzonAction Education Pack today will already be senior citizens retired from your jobs by the time the ozone layer fully recovers. We hope that by that time you will have learned your lessons well and adopted safe sun practices to avoid the consequences of living under a thinned ozone layer. We hope that you will have maintained your own health and protected that of your own children.
The United Nations Secretary-General has issued a statement on the occasion of Ozone Day that highlights that the Montreal Protocol is “effective and working”. But the success of the Montreal Protocol to date must be sustained into the future. The Education Pack helps achieve that goal. UNEP, UNESCO and WHO are promoting the Pack to countries around the world and encouraging Environment, Education and Health Ministries, schools and teachers to adopt it as part of the primary school curricula. By doing so, they are contributing to promote the long-term sustainability of the implementation of the Montreal Protocol by getting ozone protection introduced in primary school curricula.
I would also like to point out that the OzonAction Education Pack contributes to other important goals: the Millennium Development Goals, the time-bound and measurable targets set by all United Nations Member States which form the heart of global agenda. In a small but significant way, this new service contributes to the implementation of these “MDGs” by promoting primary school education, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing partnerships.
The development of the Education Pack was led by the OzonAction Branch in UNEP’s Division of Technology, Industry and Economics and it was financially supported by the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol. The Pack is part of UNEP Global Communication Strategy for promoting compliance with national obligations under this treaty, and it is linked to UNEP’s Tunza Children and Youth Programme and the International Decade for Education for Sustainable Development.
We would like to thank the Multilateral Fund for its generous support for this important service. We would also like to express appreciation for other collaborating partners who will help with the outreach and adoption of the Pack, notably the UNESCO Associated School Network, Eco-Schools programme and Environment Online.