Ozone layer protection
- Category: European Union Carbon Market Glossary
5 October 2023
5 April 2022
The Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer was established by the international community in 1987 and entered into force in 1989. The Protocol has been ratified by 197 Parties (including the EU and its Member States) and was the first universally ratified treaty in the history of the United Nations. The purpose of the Montreal Protocol is to prevent certain man-made substances from depleting the ozone layer, which could lead to an increased level of ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth and impacting on human health, animals, plants, biogeochemistry, air quality and materials. At the same time, most of these substances have high global warming potential and are contributory factors towards increasing the temperature of the Earth. The particular purpose of the Protocol was to reduce the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances (ODS), inter alia, by envisaging reduction schedules both for developed and developing countries.
The EU legislation which ensures compliance with the obligations set out in the Montreal Protocol. is currently represented by the Regulation (EC) No 1005/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 September 2009 on substances that deplete the ozone layer (the ODS Regulation) and implementing instruments, in particular regarding:
- laboratory and analytical uses of ozone-depleting substances (Commission Regulation (EU) No 291/2011),
- process agent users (Commission Decision 2010/372/EU), and
- quota allocation procedures (Commission Regulation (EU) 537/2011).
The aforementioned legal acts have been preceded by the Council Decision that dates from 1980 and the Council Regulation adopted in 1988, which were replaced by updated legislation four times (in 1991, 1994, 2000 and 2009).
The ODS Regulation includes additional requirements and is more ambitious than the Montreal Protocol (for example, the ODS Regulation envisages quicker phase-out schedules and controls more ozone-depleting substances and more uses, the ODS Regulation controls substances not just in bulk, but also contained in products and equipment).
Substances controlled by the ODS Regulation are:
- ozone-depleting substances covered under the Montreal Protocol (over 90 chemicals plus their isomers),
- ozone-depleting substances not covered under the Montreal Protocol (5 additional chemicals).
The ODS Regulation controls these substances in the EU by prohibiting their uses except where alternatives are not feasible.
There are six exempted uses specified in the ODS Regulation:
- feedstock uses,
- process agent uses,
- essential laboratory and analytical uses,
- hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) other uses,
- quarantine and pre-shipment uses,
- critical uses.
The exempted uses are controlled and monitored by means of measures framed by the ODS Regulation. It comprises the following types of measures:
- quota limitations,
- trade restrictions (e.g. licensing requirements),
- registry requirements for laboratories,
- reporting requirements (including illegal trade),
- phase-out schedules (target dates for phase-out will be spelled out in the evaluation),
- national inspection obligations (including illegal trade),
- technical requirements for destruction, leakage and emission control.
The recovery of the ozone layer to a concentration level existing before 1980 is not projected to take place before the middle of the 21st century.
On 5 April 2022 the European Commission proposed to change the Regulation No 1005/2009. On 5 October 2023 the Council and Parliament reached a provisional political agreement in this regard.
According to the provisional agreement, the consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) will be completely phased out by 2050, and the production of HFCs, in terms of production rights allocated by the Commission, will be phased down to a minimum (15%) as of 2036. Both production and consumption will be phased down based on a tight schedule of decreasing quota allocation(Annexes V and VII). The agreement introduces a higher quota allocation for the first two periods compared to the Commission proposal. Semi-conductors will be exempted from the HFC quota allocation system, as proposed by the Commission, and the feasibility of the phase-out of the consumption of HFCs and the need for HFCs in sectors where they are still used will be reviewed in 2040, taking into account technological developments and the availability of alternatives to HFCs for the relevant applications.
The text introduces a full ban on placing several categories of products and equipment containing HFCs on the market, including certain domestic refrigerators, chillers, foams and aerosols (Annex IV). It brings forward some deadlines for the ban and extends it to products that use F-gases with a lesser global warming potential (GWP). Exemptions from the ban are provided for if there are safety concerns.
The provisional agreement introduces a full ban on small (<12kW) monobloc heat pumps and air conditioning that contain F-gases with a GWP of at least 150 starting in 2027, and a complete phase-out in 2032. With regard to split air conditioning and heat pumps containing F-gases, the co-legislators agreed on a full ban starting in 2035, with earlier deadlines for certain types of split systems with higher global warming potential. Exemptions are provided for in cases where this equipment is needed to meet safety requirements. The provisional agreement also includes the possibility to release a limited number of additional quotas for heat pumps if the proposed bans were to endanger the attainment of the heat pump deployment target required under REPowerEU.
The text also lays down a new full ban on medium voltage switchgears relying on F-gases, with a gradual phase-out by 2030, and a ban on high voltage switchgears by 2032. It introduces a cascading principle that allows for potential derogations from the bans depending on the bidding process for F-gas-free alternatives. It includes a possibility for high voltage switchgear to use the very potent greenhouse gas SF6 as a last resort under the cascading principle and adds a number of safeguards in order to avoid the bans endangering the functioning of the electrical grids.
The provisional agreement introduces a ban on some equipment needed to repair and service existing equipment. From 2025, servicing equipment for refrigeration equipment that uses F-gases with high global warming potential will be banned unless the gases are reclaimed or recycled, in which case they benefit from a derogation until 2030. A similar ban is introduced for servicing equipment for air conditioning and heat pump equipment for 2026, with a derogation for reclaimed or recycled gases until 2032. A servicing ban on stationary refrigeration equipment designed to cool products to temperatures below -50 °C using F-gases with lower global warming potential will be applied in 2032, with a permanent derogation where recycled or reclaimed gases are used.
The text sets the HFC quota allocation price at €3, adjustable for inflation. Part of the revenue will be used to cover the administrative costs of the implementation of the F-gas regulation, and the rest will go to the general EU budget.
The text sets out a mandatory extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme from 1 January 2028 for F-gases in products and equipment which fall under the categories of electrical and electronic equipment subject to Directive 2012/19/EU (on waste electrical and electronic equipment).
The provisional text provides that member states will set rules on effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties applicable to infringements. The penalties should include at least fines, confiscation of products, temporary exclusion of products from public procurement and temporary trade bans. They should be compatible with the Environmental Crime Directive and with national legal systems. They should be above a set minimum quantitative threshold if member states decide to set a threshold.
The provisional agreement confirmed that ODSs are prohibited in almost all cases, with only strictly limited exemptions. The text includes an exemption for the use of ODSs as feedstock to produce other substances. The Commission will be tasked with regularly updating a list ODSs the use of which as feedstock is banned. An assessment of the availability of alternatives for feedstock is to be primarily done at international level, under the Montreal Protocol. However, as a safeguard, if the international expert panel fails to do so within a certain timeframe, the Commission will make an assessment of viable alternatives.
The text will also allow, under strict conditions, ODSs used as process agents, in laboratories and for fire protection in special applications such as military equipment and airplanes.
The provisional agreement extends the requirement to recover ODSs for destruction, recycling or reclamation to include more than in the Commission proposal. The requirement will cover refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment, equipment containing solvents, fire protection systems and fire extinguishers and other equipment if technically and economically feasible.
The text also extends to all ODSs the requirement on undertakings to take precautions to prevent and minimise the unintentional release of ODSs and to ensure that any leakage detected is repaired without undue delay.