PRESS RELEASE – Strasbourg, 25 March 2009
Today the European Parliament adopted new rules to control chemicals that damage the ozone layer and human health (1). Green MEPs played a key role in reducing the use of ozone-damaging chemicals, particularly methyl bromide and HCFCs.
Finnish Green MEP Satu Hassi, vice-chair of the European Parliament environment committee, said:
“I welcome the agreement to strengthen EU legislation on regulating substances damaging to ozone – in particular the decision to reduce the maximum quantities for HCFCs and the phase-out of methyl bromide in Europe, which is set almost five years earlier than the EU Commission had initially proposed (2).
HCFCs and many ozone-destroying chemicals are also potent greenhouse gases, contributing to the global problem of climate change. Thanks to our insistence, the final agreement assures the Commission will have to regularly review the regulation and eliminate any existing exemptions for damaging chemicals where feasible alternatives exist. This will ensure the EU sets an example around the world by promoting development of technologies that will not damage the ozone layer.
The Parliament was able to guarantee stronger requirements for ozone-depleting chemicals in old refrigeration and fire equipment to be captured and destroyed when equipment is repaired or no longer usable. We also have a commitment from the Commission to review the substance lists according to latest science in order to ensure reporting on use by companies is required for all known substances with significant ozone depleting potential.”
(1)The ‘ozone layer’ protects all life on earth from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. This fragile layer of ozone gas in the sky acts like a screen or umbrella from harmful UV rays. But chlorine and bromine released from manufactured chemicals have damaged our ozone shield, making it thinner. This allows additional UV radiation to reach the earth surface, causing more skin cancers and eye cataracts in humans and animals, and decreasing our bodies’ immune defences. A thinner ozone layer also reduces the populations of sea plankton and fish, and affects forest growth. For a decade the Earth’s ozone layer has been in the most fragile state since records began.
Ozone-damaging chemicals include CFCs used in fridges, air-conditioning and aerosols, and halons in fire extinguishers – most of these uses were banned in the EU during the last decade. However some ozone-destroying chemicals are still used, and need to be eliminated, such as HCFCs in refrigeration, and methyl bromide – a toxic pesticide used on import/export goods like wood pallets, packaging, flowers, dried foods, fruit and vegetables.
(2)The phasing out of the production of hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) must be achieved by the end of 2019 and has to be further decreased during the period 2017-2019 to maximum 7% in relation to 1997 levels. Methyl bromide use for quarantine and preshipment uses shall be phased out by 18 March 2010 instead of in 31 December 2014.