Most Belizeans have a refrigerator or air conditioning unit in their homes or offices – occasionally both. But few know that the gases used to power these modern luxuries can be harmful to them – and to their environment.
Since the 1980’s countries have worked together to address the issue of ozone-depleting gases, and there is a plan in place that will completely remove these harmful gases from human society by 2030.
On Tuesday, Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria spoke to us on the occasion of International Day of Ozone Layer Protection, or Ozone Day for short.
“The goal of today’s event is celebrating the International Day of Ozone Layer Protection, what we refer to locally as Ozone Day. We gathered here today, all those that have been helping us for years, since 2000, in implementing the Ozone Layer Protection Program in Belize.
These include the following: Refrigeration Technicians, the people who are there doing every day working with refrigerator gases, equipment such as ACs, refrigerators, freezers, walk-in coolers, [etcetera]. All those are here today.
Also [here are] the importers, the key main importers and distributors, not only of the refrigerant gases that are a replacement of the Ozone Layer depleting substances, but also the equipment. You see a lot of equipment being displayed, air conditioning, refrigerators, etcetera, that use these Ozone Depleting substances, and the replacement gases that we are promoting.”
Per the standards of the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting gases, certain types of refrigerants are banned from usage in Belize as of 2010 except in older models of refrigerators and air conditioners, and even these are being retrofitted. By next January, 2015, gases which are restricted in usage, known as hydro-chloro-fluoro-carbons or HCFC’s, must be reduced by 15% and eventually abolished by 2030. Additionally, Belize’s refrigerator and A.C. technicians must be licensed and registered with the Department, though only about 120 of 300 are. But what does it mean for your cooling off, whether in the office or at home? Martin Alegria explains.
“The replacement gases are changing. Every year we come with new technologies, new gases, and new types of equipment that use these new replacement gases, as we call them.
Each gas has its oven characteristics, its own properties. We have to be keeping up to date with those substances, because the science is trying to not only solve the Ozone Layer Depleting issue, but it is trying to come up with gases that are non-greenhouse gases, that do not affect the Climate Change.
So, we’re combining forces, the Ozone Layer Protection and Climate Change issues. The substances that we’re talking about, we need to know what they are, the properties, how they’re used, and what equipment they’re using. All that is part of training sensitization and awareness, that we are building with the key stakeholders: the technicians that work with this equipment and gases, that need to know; the importers who are planning five years down the road, what type of equipment they’ll be bringing in, what ones they’ll be avoiding.”
There are specific penalties in the Environmental Protection Act and Refrigerator and Air Conditioning Technicians Act for importing prohibited and restricted gases.
Tuesday’s Open House at the ITVET compound featured participation from several businesses that deal with refrigerator and A.C. repair, as well as the Customs and Excise Department which watches over importation of gases used in this work.
The theme of the day was “Ozone Layer Protection – The Mission Goes On.”