Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon. Dr David Kemp
28 November 2003
The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today hailed the passage of the Government's Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Legislation Amendment Bill as an international model for atmospheric protection.
"Australia is a world leader in ozone protection, " Dr Kemp said.
"We have destroyed more ozone depleting substances than any other country and we've developed the world's best technology to do so. Now this new Act sets an international standard for the management of those synthetic greenhouse gases which are used to replace ozone depleting substances."
Ozone depleting substances, used widely in many industries, break down the ozone layer in the atmosphere resulting in an increase in damaging ultraviolet radiation at the earth's surface. Synthetic greenhouse gases, used as replacements for some ozone-depleting substances, present no direct risk to the ozone layer but do have a greenhouse impact thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide.
"The Act means we can now develop uniform Australia-wide regulations to control both the import and the end use of synthetic greenhouse gases and ozone depleting substances. It will result in direct benefits to the environment and to the health of all Australians.
"It will reduce the threat to the ozone layer and cut Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of nearly six million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or one per cent of 1990 levels in 2010, putting Australia within striking distance of its Kyoto target.
"The Act sets up a framework through which the Australian Government, with input from industry, can develop the regulations controlling and managing the use of synthetic gases. Industry involvement and support will be critical to the implementation of those regulations and the establishment of a truly national approach to the control of ozone-depleting substances and their synthetic greenhouse gas replacements.
"The Act will also enable Australia to ratify the Beijing Amendment, the most recent amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. This amendment controls a new ozone depleting substance - bromochloromethane - and limits trade in ozone-depleting HCFCs to countries that have committed to their phase out."
The new Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act covers substances such as chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, bromochloromethane, halons, and methyl bromide that are used in air conditioning, refrigeration, fumigation, foam, fire protection, precision cleaning, sterilization, laboratory and analytical research.
About the Act
- The Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Legislation Amendment Bill 2003 introduces new controls on substances that have detrimental environmental impacts on the global atmosphere - ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and synthetic greenhouse gases used as alternatives to ODS.
- The Act builds on the previous Ozone Protection Act 1989 and will deliver three major changes:
- extend the import, export and manufacture licensing system for ODS to also cover synthetic greenhouse gases where they are used as alternatives to ODS.
- create regulations for end-use controls on purchase, sale, handling and disposal of these gases.
- implement the Beijing Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, banning the import and manufacture of bromochloromethane, and banning trade in certain ODS with non-Protocol countries.
- The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change concentrates on the control of emissions of synthetic greenhouse gases, rather than their phase-out. Synthetic greenhouse gases, which were adopted themselves as replacements for ozone-depleting substances under the Montreal Protocol, are used in many different applications by Australian industry and there are only a limited number of alternative substances available to replace them. The Act does not phase out the use of synthetic greenhouse gases, but aims at minimizing their emission.
- As a result of the new Act, emissions will be reduced by the equivalent of nearly 6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2010, a reduction in Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by up to 1% of 1990 levels in 2010. This helps put Australia within striking distance of its 108% Kyoto target.
About the gases
- Ozone depleting substances covered by the Bill are Bromochloromethane (BCM), Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), Hydrobromofluorocarbons (HBFCs), Halons, Methyl Bromide, Carbon Tetrachloride and Methyl Chloroform.
- The new Act covers the greenhouse gases hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs), where they are used as alternatives to ozone depleting substances. However, the use of these synthetic greenhouse gases will not be regulated where they are not used as replacements to ozone depleting substances, such as in magnesium and aluminium production.
- Ozone depleting substances and their synthetic greenhouse gas alternatives have a range of uses including in air conditioning, refrigeration, foam, fire protection, aerosols, precision cleaning, sterilization, laboratory and analytical research, and in the production of aluminium and magnesium. All of these uses, except the production of aluminium and magnesium, are subject to the new Act.
- Industry will be consulted in the development of the regulations.
- Industry Boards may be established among the most relevant user groups, for example, the refrigeration and air conditioning industry and the fire protection industry, to further the development and implementation of the new regulations within their user groups.
The difference between ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect
- Climate change, caused by the enhanced greenhouse effect, and ozone depletion (holes in the ozone layer) are two different problems.
- Chemical reactions involving ozone-depleting substances break down the ozone layer above the earth. As a result, more of the sun's ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth, increasing the risk of skin cancer, and affecting plant yields, damaging ocean ecosystems and reducing fishing yields, and adversely affecting animals and damaging building materials and plastics.
- Greenhouse gases are a natural part of the atmosphere. They trap the sun's warmth and maintain the earth's surface temperature at a level necessary to support life. However, human actions - particularly the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) and land clearing - are increasing the concentrations of these gases, leading to climate change. This is the enhanced greenhouse effect. Symptoms of climate change include increased intensity and frequency of El Niño events and other extreme weather events.
- While synthetic greenhouse gases, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons, present no direct risk to the ozone layer, they are potent greenhouse gases with their emissions having an impact on the climate hundreds to thousands of times greater than emissions of carbon dioxide on a tonne for tonne basis. For example, the hydrofluorocarbon 134a, used in most car air conditioners, is thirteen hundred times more potent than carbon dioxide on a tonne-for-tonne basis.
- While ozone depletion and climate change are different environmental phenomena, some of the gases being used to replace ozone-depleting substances contribute to climate change, namely the synthetic greenhouse gases such as hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons. Thus, the new Act expands on the Australian Government's existing ozone protection legislation to ensure that Australia's transition to ozone-friendly alternatives occurs in a manner that does not compromise its commitment to minimise greenhouse gas emissions.