Brussels, 16 September 2009
Environment: European Union hails universal ratification of the Montreal Protocol on protecting the ozone layer
The Swedish Presidency of the European Union and the European Commission welcome the universal ratification of the Montreal Protocol announced today, following ratification by Timor-Leste. This announcement coincides with International Day for the preservation of the ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol, which bans the production of ozone-depleting substances, is widely recognised as a success story which has put the ozone layer on the road to recovery. The Protocol has also helped significantly to protect the global climate since ozone-depleting substances are also potent greenhouse gases. The EU is keen to ensure the Montreal Protocol plays a continued role in combating climate change in co-operation with the UN climate convention, particularly regarding possible action on HFC industrial gases. HFCs are increasingly being used to replace ozone-depleting substances but are themselves powerful greenhouse gases.
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "I very much welcome the news that the Montreal Protocol has finally achieved the universal recognition it deserves. The progress the Protocol has achieved in protecting both the ozone layer and the global climate shows that worldwide consensus on exceptionally important environmental issues is achievable. This is a very important and encouraging message that we have to keep in mind as the world prepares to conclude what must be an ambitious global agreement on climate change at the Copenhagen conference in December."
Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren said: “The European Union is happy to welcome Timor-Leste to the global community working for the protection of the ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol's achievements in protecting the ozone layer and combating climate change have been remarkable, but there is a growing global consensus that the projected increase of HFCs is not compatible with our goal of building a low-carbon economy. The next Montreal Protocol conference in November and the Copenhagen climate conference in December are important opportunities to continue work on this issue.”
Montreal Protocol achievements
Following ratification by the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, announced today by the UN Ozone Secretariat, all 196 members of the United Nations have now ratified the Montreal Protocol.
Agreed in 1987 following the discovery of the “ozone hole”, the Protocol protects the ozone layer from damage caused by certain industrial chemicals known as ozone-depleting substances (ODS). The Protocol will, by the end of this year, have banned production of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants and solvents and halon fire extinguishants. It has set a clear timetable for phasing out other harmful substances such as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and methyl bromide. As a result of these actions the ozone layer is expected to return to normal levels from 2050 onwards.
Climate change challenges
Because ODS are also potent greenhouse gases, the Protocol has helped significantly to protect the climate. Some important challenges remain, however, as ODS are being increasingly replaced by hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which have global warming potentials up to 14,800 times higher than carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.
The success of the Montreal Protocol is now serving as an inspiration for possible sector-specific actions on HFCs during the climate change negotiations. As HFCs are controlled by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol, the EU has been promoting synergies between the climate framework and the Montreal Protocol. In July this year Parties to the Montreal Protocol started discussing a proposal to cap and reduce the global consumption of HFCs. The Copenhagen conference in December is a further opportunity to ensure that the international climate and ozone layer regimes co-operate in a cost-effective and environmentally sound way.
The stratospheric ozone layer protects life on earth from harmful UV-B radiation. In the early 1980s the ozone layer was found to be significantly depleted over the Antarctic due to emissions of ODS. The 1987 Montreal Protocol, one of the first and most successful Multilateral Environmental Agreements, commits Parties, including the European Community, to ending the production and consumption of ODS.
The EU has phased out more than 99% of its ODS production, thanks to proactive industry participation and strict enforcement of the EU's legislation on ODS by the Commission and Member States. From 2010 further EU restrictions on ODS will come into force.
In 2006 the EU introduced legislation to regulate fluorinated industrial gases, including HFCs. This prohibits certain uses but mainly focuses on measures to minimise emissions. The European Union does not yet control production of HFCs but has been active this year in discussions both under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Montreal Protocol on additional measures that could be taken to reduce emissions. Discussions are ongoing on how the ozone and climate regime could co-operate in a cost-effective and environmentally sound way.