Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Speech opening Saving the Ozone Layer Conference

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster, London
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: Around 1000.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 726

Prime Minister:

Your Excellency, President Moi, Dr Tolba and Distinguished Delegates.

First of all may I wish you all a very warm welcome to London and to this Saving the Ozone Layer Conference. The Conference is an exciting event and it has inspired interest among people all over the world and the response to our invitation has been marvellous.

No fewer than 118 countries are represented here and that is evidence of how seriously we all take the many problems confronting the global environment, problems which none of us can afford to ignore.

The greenhouse effect, the consequences of destruction of tropical rain forests, pollution of our air and water, all these preoccupy governments and people more than ever before. [end p1]

Mr Chairman, as you know, on 2 May 1985, the British Antarctic Survey team discovered the gap in the ozone layer. Two weeks later, the discovery was announced to the world through an article in “Nature” .

Things have not been quite the same since as we have come to understand the seriousness of the problem and the damage which is being done to the living balance of nature. And it is that discovery which has brought us together in this Conference to consider how the ozone layer can be restored.

Our aim here is not to negotiate binding agreements, the United Nations already provides the proper framework in which that can be done. Rather we are here, members of governments, scientists and industrialists from all over the world, to pool our knowledge and experience and to learn from each other, to improve understanding of the serious implications of the damage which is being done to the ozone layer and to pave the way for further concerted action.

Of course action is already underway within the United Nations Environment Programme and many of the governments represented here are parties to the Montreal Protocol which commits participants to reduce the use of chlorofluorocarbons by fifty percent. [end p2]

But many countries, and that certainly includes the United Kingdom, are convinced that we need to go further and act faster to accept higher targets and shorter deadlines.

Indeed the countries of the European Community have recently agreed the aim of eliminating harmful CFC gases by the end of the century. Each of you will reach your own conclusion on what is needed and what is feasible in the circumstances of your country but please do not set your sights too low.

I will underline just two points right at the beginning of our deliberations.

First, we are all affected by damage to the ozone layer. The consequences will strike not only those whose products and whose use of those products, are doing the most damage. Certainly they have a heavier responsibility than others and it falls to them to do most to remove the causes of the problem. But that alone will not suffice because we are all affected and we must all be ready to take action in a major international cooperative effort.

Second, the problem is not one for governments alone. It will require cooperation with science and industry as well - both so very well represented at this Conference. And beyond that, we shall need to enlist the understanding and active participation of individual people. Because at the end of the day, their habits, their choice of the products they use, the care that they exercise, will be crucial to success in saving the ozone layer. [end p3]

Mr President, we are so very honoured that you have kindly and graciously accepted our invitation to come to London to deliver the opening address of this Conference. We know you as the leader of one of Africa's most stable and successful countries, as a great figure in the affairs of the African continent and former Chairman of the Organisation of African Unity, and as a statesman of world renown.

You will speak not only from your great wisdom and experience but from the vantage point of a leader of a country which has great ambition for the future well-being and development of its people and resources. Those are ambitions which are wholly justified and which none of us wants to see restricted.

Our purpose is to find a way which shields the vital balance of nature while allowing the justified hopes of the world's peoples for economic development and well-being to be achieved.

We are very grateful that you have agreed to launch our discussions. We look forward with the greatest possible interest to what you have to say to us. And may I wish this Conference every success. I know that you will all find it extremely interesting and very rewarding.