Ozone

Clouds against the sun

High in the atmosphere a layer of ozone protects life on earth from the damaging ultra violet rays of the sun. Ozone, which is composed of three oxygen atoms bound together, is a naturally occurring substance and is present at very low concentrations throughout the atmosphere. The concentration is highest in the stratosphere, which is the atmospheric layer between approximately 10-15 to 50km above the earth’s surface.

The case for government action

The ozone layer filters out much of the potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun that enters the atmosphere (radiation at wavelengths between 240 and 320 nanometers is absorbed by ozone).  Any depletion of the ozone layer results in an increase in UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface, which can have a harmful impact on our environment and health.

Many substances that deplete the ozone layer are also potent greenhouse gases so international efforts to protect the ozone layer have contributed to mitigating the greenhouse effect.

Latest news

16 September 2010 – The Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion 2010 reaffirms that controls under the Montreal Protocol have protected the stratospheric ozone layer from much higher levels of depletion by phasing out production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances. The report, to be published in full early in 2011, also says the Montreal Protocol has provided substantial co-benefits by reducing climate change. New report hightlights two-way link between ozone layer and climate change (PDF 60 KB)

The current situation and background

One of the objectives under the treaty establishing the EU is to promote measures at international level to solve regional or worldwide environmental problems. In this regard, the Community may co-operate with third countries and with the competent international organisations.

The Community has been a party to international conventions on environmental conservation since the 1970s. Among these conventions are the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and its Montreal Protocol on Substances which Deplete the Ozone Layer. The Montreal Protocol, agreed in 1987, controls the production and use of ozone-depleting substances. This has led to recovery of the ozone layer. Globally, the ozone layer is projected to recover to its 1980 level by the middle of this century.

Regulation (EC) 2037/2000 on substances that deplete the ozone layer established the provisions to carry out the Community’s obligations under the Vienna Convention and the latest amendments and adjustments to the Montreal Protocol. This regulation was replaced by Regulation (EC) 1005/2009 on substances that deplete the ozone layer which came into force on 1 January 2010.  This Regulation has been amended by Commission Regulation 744/2010 (PDF 760 KB) with regard to the critical uses of halons which came into force in September 2010.

Relevant legislation

  • The Environmental Protection (Controls on Ozone-Depleting Substances) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/528) apply to England, Wales, Scotland (relating to importation) and Northern Ireland. They make provisions, in relation, to Council Regulation (EC) no. 2037/2000 on substances that deplete the ozone layer which controls the production, placing on the market and use of, trade in, and emission of certain substances (“controlled substances”) that deplete the ozone layer and also products and equipment containing controlled substances.
  • The 2002 regulations have been amended by The Ozone Depleting Substances (Controls on Ozone-Depleting Substances) (Amendment) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/91).
  • The Ozone-Depleting Substances (Qualifications) Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/216) apply to England, Wales and Scotland, in relation to the Council Regulation (EC) 2037/2000 on substances that deplete the ozone layer. They provide for minimum qualifications for those working on the recovery, recycling, reclamation or destruction of controlled substances and the prevention and minimising of leakages of controlled substances.
  • Defra has consulted stakeholders on proposed new GB legislation: The Environmental Protection (Controls on Ozone-Depleting Substances) Regulations 2009 to implement EC Regulation 1005/2009 (PDF 1.2 MB) on substances that deplete the ozone layer, as ammended by Commission Regulation 744/2010 (PDF 760 KB) with regard to the critical uses of halons. The new GB Regulation is expected to come into force early in 2011.

The full text of the published statutory instruments is available on the Legislation.gov.uk site:

Ozone and UV monitoring programmes

Details may be found on the UK Stratospheric Ozone and UV Measurements pages

Page last modified: 7 December 2010

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