The ozone layer is showing its first signs of recovery after years of depletion, a UN study has found.
Scientists said the recovery was largely due to global action, including a 1987 ban on damaging man-made gases.
For the first time in 35 years, scientists were able to confirm a statistically significant and sustained increase in stratospheric ozone, which provides a shield from solar radiation that causes skin cancer, crop damage and other problems. The ozone hole over Antarctica has also stopped growing bigger every year, although it will be about a decade before it begins to shrink, said the report produced by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the UN Environment Programme.
"International action on the ozone layer is a major environmental success story... This should encourage us to display the same level of urgency and unity to take on the even greater challenge of tackling climate change," said Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the WMO.
Past studies had suggested the ozone layer has stopped deteriorating.
"Now for the first time, in this report, we can say that we see indications of a small increase in total ozone," said Geir Braathen, the senior scientific officer at the WMO. "That means recovery of the ozone layer in terms of total ozone has just started."
The 1987 Montreal Protocol, which banned or phased out ozone-depleting chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons once widely used in fridges and aerosols, has largely been credited with the reversal in the damage of the ozone layer. The UN calculated that without the 1987 pact, by 2030 there would have been an extra two million skin cancer cases a year around the world.
"It's a victory for science that we were able to work together," said Mario Molina, who won the 1995 Nobel Prize for his role in exposing the threat to the ozone layer. (© Daily Telegraph, London)