Consumption of ozone-depleting substances

The EU continues to actively phase out ozone-depleting substances (ODS), in line with its commitment under the Montreal Protocol. Data for 2021 show that consumption of ODS in the EU grew, following several years of reductions. This increase reflects a significant growth in 2021 in stockpiling of ODS that were produced for export. EU ODS consumption is expected to decline again when the quantities stockpiled in 2021 are exported.

Published: ‒ 25min read

In 1989, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer entered into force. Its objective is to protect the stratospheric ozone layer by phasing out the production of ozone-depleting substances (ODS). The protocol covers around 100 individual substances with a high ozone-depleting potential (ODP), including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, carbon tetrachloride (CTC), 1,1,1-trichloroethane (TCA), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydrobromofluorocarbons (HBFCs), bromochloromethane (BCM) and methyl bromide (MB), all of which are referred to as ‘controlled substances’. Within the EU, the use of and trade in substances is regulated by Regulation (EC) No 1005/2009 (known as the Ozone Regulation). The Ozone Regulation is more ambitious than the Montreal Protocol and goes further in many aspects, for instance it has a quicker phase-out schedule, covers more substances and regulates not only substances in bulk, but also those contained in products and equipment.

In the EU-27, ODS are only used, to the extent allowed by the Montreal Protocol and the EU Ozone Regulation. In line with this legislation, there are only a few exemptions to the overall phase out of ODS. Exemptions concern for instance some industrial processes, firefighting, laboratory and analytical uses.

In 2021, the EU’s consumption of controlled substances amounted to 1,176 metric tonnes, up from a negative consumption level of -2,688 metric tonnes in 2020. The consumption of controlled substances, when expressed in metric tonnes, was largely driven by large quantities of CTC that were stockpiled before export. Expressed in ODP tonnes, consumption in 2021 amounted to 1,627 ODP tonnes, up from -2,761 ODP tonnes in 2020.

The positive consumption level in 2021 can be explained by ODS that were produced for feedstock outside the EU, to be used in the manufacture of such products as refrigerants, foam blowing agents, polymers, pharmaceuticals and agricultural chemicals. It is expected that these quantities will be exported in the following year, leading to an average negative consumption over both years.

For more information and data reported by companies under the Ozone Regulation, see the online ODS data viewer.

In an effort to strengthen the EU legislation on ozone layer protection, the European Commission published a proposal for a revised EU Ozone Regulation on 5 April 2022.

The chart above shows the decreasing consumption of ozone-depleting substances covered by the Montreal Protocol in the EU and worldwide. Globally, consumption of ODS controlled under the Montreal Protocol has declined by 99% in the period 1986-2020 . However, the ozone layer is not expected to recover fully before the second half of this century. This is because once released, ozone depleting substances stay in the atmosphere for many years and continue to cause damage.

Despite global progress in past years to phase out ODS, more needs to be done. From 2012, unexpectedly high concentrations of the ODS CFC-11 were detected in the atmosphere, suggesting that its production had resumed illegally despite the global ban on production and consumption of this chemical under the Montreal Protocol. This alert resulted in Parties to the Montreal Protocol taking urgent actions. Preliminary data suggest that global emissions decreased after 2017. It will be important to ensure that the illegal production and trade of ODS are continually monitored and prevented in all global regions, as this could delay ozone layer recovery significantly.

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