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Commission welcomes agreement in Parliament on ozone layer

European Commission - IP/09/474   25/03/2009

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IP/09/474

Brussels, 25 March 2009

Commission welcomes agreement in Parliament on ozone layer

The Commission welcomes the vote today by the European Parliament that confirms the first reading agreement reached between Parliament and Council on reinforcing ozone legislation. The agreement comes less than a year after the Commission's proposal was presented. In addition to updating current legislation on the protection of the ozone layer in light of scientific developments, the new regulation reinforces measures on the illegal trade and remaining uses of ozone depleting substances, including hydrochlorofluorocarbons. It also confirms the ban on the use of methyl bromide from early 2010 and bolsters measures on the management of banned substances in older products.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "Ozone depleting substances have caused greater UV radiation to reach the earth, which endangers human beings and the environment. I welcome the European Parliament and the Council's swift adoption of this new legislation which further restricts the use of these substances in the European Union. The new legislation should help the ozone layer recover from 2050 onwards and also contribute to our efforts to mitigate climate change."

Building on the successes of the Montreal Protocol

International measures to protect the ozone layer in the stratosphere have had remarkable success. In the EU, current legislation – generally more ambitious than the 1987 Montreal Protocol that regulates these substances internationally – helped achieve a 99% phase-out of ozone-depleting substances, thus demonstrating its commitment to lead in the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements.

Beyond protecting the ozone layer, the reduction of ozone depleting substances also plays a significant role in fighting climate change. Ozone depleting substances have a global warming potential up to 14,000 times greater than carbon dioxide. Without the Montreal Protocol global greenhouse gas emissions would be 50% higher than they are today.

Strengthening EU legislation on the ozone

The legislation agreed on by the European Parliament today follows from the Commission's proposal presented in August 2008. The aim of the new legislation is to adapt EU legislation on the protection of the ozone layer to the latest scientific developments and simplify it. It also strengthens the measures on the illegal trade and use of ozone depleting substances in the EU and introduces measures to prevent the dumping of these substances - or obsolete equipment relying on these substances - in developing countries.

The new legislation restricts further the use of some ozone depleting substances, such as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and methyl bromide. It bans the use of virgin HCFCs from 2010 while allowing the use of recycled HCFCs under certain conditions until the end of 2014. Production of HCFCs for export - mainly to developing countries where the phase out is lagging by about ten years - would cease by 2020 in decremental steps and caps instead of the original deadline of 2025. It also mandates the Commission to adopt tougher provisions on ozone depleting substances trapped – or "banked" - in products such as insulation foams in buildings in addition to already existing obligations on the recovery and elimination of substances in air conditioners and refrigeration equipment.

Measures on methyl bromide will be tightened under the new ozone legislation. All uses of the substance will be banned by March 2010, including those used for quarantine and pre-shipment.

The legislation also expands the list of substances for which reporting is required, but that are not yet covered by the Montreal Protocol.

Background

The discovery in the early 1980s of a significant decrease in the concentration of ozone in the stratosphere over the Antarctic led to governments agreeing in 1987 on a Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer – the Montreal Protocol. Thus began the phasing-out of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) according to a set timetable.

By 2007 all 191 parties signatory to the protocol had reduced their use of ozone depleting substances by 95% from the base year. Industrialised countries achieved the highest results since developing countries were given a delayed timetable. In its 2007 report, the Montreal Protocol Scientific Assessment Panel (SAP) confirmed that the ozone layer is slowly recovering – but slower than projections - thanks to the control measures introduced by the Protocol.

As a result of international efforts scientists report that it is now possible for the ozone layer to fully recover sometime between 2050 and 2075. However, the scientists warned that a number of challenges remain to ensure this happens, particularly emissions from “banked” substances, exempted uses and new ozone depleting substances. The SAP expressed concerns about the growing production of HCFCs in developing countries. The parties to the protocol subsequently agreed in 2007 on an accelerated HCFC phase-out schedule.

More information:

Commission proposal: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ozone/review.htm


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