In Brief

Ozone layer has begun to recover, say UN scientists

A 'major environmental success story', but scientists warn urgent action is now required to tackle climate change

The ozone layer is "well on track to recovery" after decades of depletion due to strong international action, a UN study has revealed.

The report , compiled by 282 scientists from 36 countries, concluded that if current trends continue, the ozone layer is expected to return to benchmark levels by 2050, and slightly later over Antarctica.

The phasing out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone depleting substances is responsible for the positive change, a  process which began after the signing of the Montreal Protocol in 1987. 

"International action on the ozone layer is a major environmental success story," said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) secretary-general Michel Jarraud.

Scientists predict that the international treaty on protecting the ozone layer will end up preventing two million cases of skin cancer due to high UV exposure and significant damage to wildlife and the environment.

"We have to be a bit cautious, but this does look on the face of it like some very good news," Dr Ken Jucks from Nasa told the BBC. The findings "underline the potential power of international agreements", he said.

However, the report warns that potent greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane have "the potential to undermine these gains". This comes as the WMO said this week that the levels of greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere were at a record high.

"The challenges that we face are still huge," warned UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Envionment Programme executive director Achim Steiner. "This should encourage us to display the same level of urgency and unity to tackle the even greater challenge of climate change."

Later this month the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will host a global conference in New York in order to "catalyse action on climate change".

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