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Brussels, 1 July 1998

Europe ends the era of ozone depleting substances: Commission adopts proposal for a new EU regulation.

The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a new regulation on ozone depleting substances (ODS), some 10 years after the international community agreed the first controls on such substances under the Montreal Protocol (MP). This regulation was presented by Environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard, who described the proposal as "the European Union's (EU) final step in eliminating all ODS". The new regulation will lead to significant environmental benefits through reduced future emissions of ozone depleting substances. The most important elements are a ban on the use and production of the pesticide methyl bromide by 2001 and the ban of HCFCs in all uses within the next few years, including the ultimate phase out of its production. This will result in the complete elimination of the use and production of ozone depleting substances in the EU, thereby reinforcing European leadership in this vital area of environmental protection.

Although the Montreal Protocol is a great success in terms of the number of Parties which have ratified and the far-reaching measures they have undertaken, the ozone layer is still severely depleted. An ozone hole appears each year over Antarctica and ozone losses of up to 40% have been observed in over northern Europe during recent winters. Ozone depletion leads to increased ultra-violet radiation which causes skin cancers, cataracts, reduces growth of crops and harms both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. While ozone depletion is expected to peak during the next decade, recovery will not take place until after 2050 and is contingent on full compliance with the MP.

In order to reduce future ozone depletion, there is a need to complete the regulatory framework and ensure its full enforcement, both at EU and at international level. This proposal includes a series of measures which are particularly important to help reducing ozone depletion in the near future.

They include:

A phaseout of Methyl Bromide by 2001 with a critical use exemption:

Methyl Bromide, chiefly used as an agricultural pesticide, can now be replaced by different alternatives in almost all its applications. However, since there is a need for further demonstration of the alternatives, the proposed regulation provides a temporary exemption for 'critical uses'.

A lowered limit ('cap') for placing HCFCs on the European market

By 2001, the amount of HCFCs to be placed on the European market, known as the cap, will be reduced from the current 2,6% to 2,0%, in accordance with the EU's negotiating positions at the last three meetings of the MP.

A ban on all uses of HCFCs.

Alternatives are now available for almost all HCFC applications. Consequently, new phase out dates can be set for current uses of HCFCs. The most important phaseout dates are polyurethane foams (1 January 2003), new refrigeration equipment (1 January 2001) and solvents (1 January 2003).

HCFC production phaseout

The proposal introduces HCFC production controls for the first time, including an immediate freeze until 2008, followed by staged reductions and phase-out ahead of the internationally agreed consumption phaseout under the Montreal Protocol.

A ban on the use and sales of CFCs and other fully halogenated substances

The production of CFCs was phased out in 1996 but considerable quantities are still being marketed in the EU. The proposal would introduce a ban on the use and sales of these substances, thereby greatly reducing the market for illegal trafficking in these substances.

An export licensing system for the remaining trade in ODS

This system will facilitate monitoring and cross-checking of trade in these substances and will help the fight against illegal trade. The EU's existing import licensing system will now be complemented by an export licensing system to facilitate checking of trade between Parties to the MP.

Upon adoption Mrs Bjerregaard said: "This proposal constitutes an important mile-stone in EU policy to protect the global atmosphere. By phasing out all ozone-depleting substances in the EU, it sends a clear message to the rest of the world that ozone depleting substances belong to a technology of the past. Those involved in production and use of these substances now have the necessary legal framework within which they can assume their responsibilities for a better environment".

Factual background

The Montreal Protocol for the protection of the ozone layer (MP) was agreed in 1987.

There are 165 Parties to the MP. The EU as well as all its Member States are Parties to it, and to the 1990 and 1992 amendments.

The Montreal Protocol requires the phase-out of all ozone depleting substances. All ozone depleting substances except methyl bromide and HCFCs have already been phased out in developed countries. Developing countries have been granted a 10-year grace period.

As a result of the Montreal Protocol the rapid deterioration of the ozone layer is slowing down, although the worst ozone depletion is still ahead. Given full compliance with the Protocol, the ozone layer is expected to recover around the middle of he next century.

Ozone depletion increases UV-radiation which causes health risks (skin cancers and cataracts) and damage to ecosystems.

The majority of future ozone depletion results from already emitted ozone depleting substances with very long atmospheric life-times, such as CFCs and halons.

HCFCs and Methyl Bromide are relatively short lived ozone depleting substances and their contribution to near term ozone depletion is therefore more severe than reflected by their ozone depleting potential (ODP), which is calculated over a very long time. Further measures against these substances are effective in reducing the near term ozone depletion.

The Current Regulation 3093/94 has been the EU instrument to implement the Montreal Protocol since its adoption.

The new Regulation implements recently agreed adaptations to the Montreal Protocol into EU legislation. It provides additional protection to the ozone layer and reinforces the European lead in the international context.

It will form the basis on which the EU can encourage other Parties to the Protocol to agree tighter international controls to improve protection for the ozone layer.

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