LONDON, (RUSHPRNEWS) AUGUST 4, 2008–The European Commission presented today a proposal to revise the current legislation on the protection of the ozone layer. The revision is intended to simplify the current legislation and reflect the progress made in phasing out ozone-depleting substances in the European Union, to allow the EU to continue leading the global battle to protect and restore the ozone layer.
Despite the good progress made so far, the Commission stresses that a number of challenges remain – some closely related to climate change – and that these challenges need to be addressed in the EU and globally. The ozone layer is expected to recover to pre-1980 levels by 2050-2075.
European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “Ozone-depleting substances have been almost entirely phased out in the European Union without causing major difficulties for producers and consumers. This proves that sustainable development is achievable and must be pursued further. Despite our successes we must remain vigilant as significant quantities of these substances are still present in many products such as refrigerators and insulation material in buildings. We must prevent these substances from being released into the atmosphere. This is all the more important as they are also important contributors to global warming.’
Clarifying and strengthening the legal framework
The aim of the Commission proposal is to improve the implementation of the regulation by clarifying some of its provisions, such as those on exemptions and derogations to the use of ozone-depleting substances, and the conditions under which they can be imported and exported. The progress made in phasing out ozone-depleting substances means that numerous provisions can now be taken out. The proposed regulation is also better structured and includes a number of revised definitions.
The revision aligns the regulation with the latest international agreements, especially those dealing with the expedited phase-out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) under the Montreal Protocol, and those designed to achieve a final phase-out of substances for which alternatives are available. It also includes additional measures to prevent the illegal trade and use of ozone-depleting substances in the European Union. Further environmental and health benefits would be gained through measures to reduce and ultimately phase out the use of methyl bromide for preventing the introduction and spread of pests through international trade (quarantine and pre-shipment).
Working in tandem with climate change policy
Another aim of the proposed revision is to tackle the substances which are still present in the European Union. These are mostly contained in refrigeration equipment and insulation material in buildings, and action to prevent them being released into the atmosphere would prevent further damage to the ozone layer. In addition, these measures could avoid emissions equivalent to more than 100 million tonnes of CO2 each year. The Commission will work very closely with EU Member States and other countries party to the Montreal Protocol to tackle such issues in the EU and globally.
Implementing the proposed policy options would reduce administrative costs, most notably for industry. Decreased emissions of ozone-depleting substances would also contribute to the recovery of the ozone layer and reduce damage to human health and the environment, whilst also bringing tangible climate change benefits, without excessive cost to industry.
The ozone layer is a layer of gas in the upper atmosphere which shields life on earth from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. In the 1970s scientists discovered that certain man-made chemicals could potentially destroy ozone and deplete the ozone layer, and in the 1980s a thinning of the ozone layer in the stratosphere was discovered – the so-called “ozone hole”. Increased UV radiation can damage ecosystems and have an adverse impact on human health, leading to skin cancer and cataract problems. Decisive and swift global action followed the discoveries, first with the 1985 Vienna Convention and then with the Montreal Protocol in 1987.
The Montreal Protocol obliges signatories to phase out ozone-depleting substances according to a set timetable. One of its most important features is the dynamic process that ensures that the phase-out of such substances is based on the latest scientific, technological and economic information. Twenty years after its launch, the Montreal Protocol is now recognised as a model multilateral environmental agreement (MEA).
The EU regulation on the ozone layer is the European Union’s main instrument for implementing the provisions of the Montreal Protocol. It bans the production and placing on the market of the most damaging ozone-depleting substances and goes even further by banning or setting limits on certain uses of these substances. The Protocol and the regulation focus on the phasing out of substances rather than just decreasing their emissions.
Source: European Commission, Environment DG