Protecting the ozone layer

We must prevent the depletion of the ozone layer

The ozone layer protects life on Earth by efficiently filtering out UV radiation from the sun. Excessive exposure to UV radiation causes skin cancer and eye diseases and also harms the ecosystem.

This vital protective layer is being depleted due to compounds released into the air by human action, the most significant of which are CFCs or chlorofluorocarbons (freons) and methyl bromide. These substances are used in a variety of applications, including propellants, refrigerants, foams, extinguishing agents and pest control.

In Finland, the use, import and export of substances that deplete the ozone the layer is restricted under EU law. Finland is also committed to international conventions that seek to decrease or prevent the harmful effects of these substances. The use of compounds that erode the ozone layer is now prohibited in the EU, with a few limited exceptions.

As a result, the thinning of the ozone layer has been halted, but it will take decades for it to recover from prior damage.

Future challenges for the protection of the ozone layer

Measures to protect the ozone layer have been successful, but further protection efforts are still needed. The protection of the ozone layer faces a variety of challenges, including the warming climate and the environmental effects of substances developed to replace ozone-depleting substances.

The most significant global risks to the ozone layer are:

  • The strengthening of the greenhouse effect, which may cause the temperature of the upper atmosphere to drop, thereby accelerating the breakdown of the ozone.
  • Increased use of and emissions from the HFC compounds developed to replace ozone depleting substances HFC compounds are strong greenhouse gases that in the future should be completely replaced with environmentally friendly alternatives.
  • Preventing illegal trade, production and use of ozone depleting substances.
  • Emissions of ozone depleting substances stored in devices and products.

Managing the protection of the ozone layer

In order to protect the ozone layer, restrictions have been placed on the production and use of ozone-depleting substances, which has also led to a reduction in emissions. The actions taken to protect the ozone layer are based on the Montreal Protocol, which Finland has also ratified. The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for international cooperation concerning the ozone layer and for the related legislation at the national and EU level.

The Montreal Protocol establishes goals and a schedule for reducing the use of ozone-depleting substances. Statutes are in place throughout the EU area to ensure the implementation of these goals, and Finland complies with these as well. Under the statutes, the sale and use of ozone-depleting substances is prohibited with the exception of certain critical or essential uses.

Measures adopted in Finland to prevent ozone depletion based on the statutes include:

  • a ban on the manufacture, import and export of products and devices (primarily refrigeration appliances) that contain CFCs and HCFCs
  • inspections of refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump devices and extinguishing equipment and qualification requirements for persons who handle such devices
  • reporting and notification obligations and import and export restrictions concerning other ozone-depleting substances, and
  • classification of ozone-depleting substances as hazardous wastes requiring a handling permit

Inquiries

Eeva Nurmi, Ministerial Adviser 
Ministry of the Environment, Ympäristönsuojeluosasto, Material Economy 0295250209