New laws to reduce emissions and continue healing the ozone layer

The Albanese Government will today introduce a new Bill that will see stronger measures to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and continue to play its part in helping heal the world’s ozone layer. 

The Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Reform (Closing the Hole in the Ozone Layer) Bill 2022 will modernise and streamline Australia’s laws to manage ozone depleting substances and synthetic greenhouse gases.

Australia’s ozone legislation controls the import and use of ozone depleting substances and synthetic greenhouse gases—both of which are commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning, fire protection, aerosols and insulating foam. 

The control and phase-out of ozone gases stems from the highly successful Montreal Protocol – the most successful global environment treaty ever signed. To date, the Protocol is the only UN treaty ratified by every UN member state; in Australia it was ratified by the Hawke Government in 1989. 

This legislation helps Australia manage the chemicals that destroy the ozone layer, which is the part of the atmosphere that insulates and protects the planet from the sun’s rays. 

Some ozone depleting chemicals to be managed by the legislation are also synthetic greenhouse gases - fluorinated gases, primarily hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. 

HFCs make up only 2 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions but their use is growing rapidly because of increasing demand for air conditioning. Their potency means that even at 2 per cent, they have a disproportionately high impact on our climate. 

The Government is working closely with industry to phase down the use of HFCs by 85% between 2018-2036. We already have in place requirements for technicians to be fully trained and to safely recover HFCs from old equipment through a world leading, industry funded and operated, product stewardship scheme.

The changes set out in the Bill to be introduced today will ensure that Australia’s management program remains efficient and effective.

Quotes attributable to the Minister for the Environment and Water, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP:

“For many Australians, the hole in the ozone layer was our very first exposure to a major global environmental crisis. It introduced us to the concept of Global Warming.

“Under the Hawke Government, Australia has a strong program to protect the ozone layer and manage synthetic greenhouse gases, which stems from the Montreal Protocol. We need to modernise and strengthen this system.

“After years of delay on climate policy – and after experiencing natural disasters aggravated by global warming – Australians are asking for real action.

“By working together, across national boundaries, we can move away from refrigerants that damage our shared environment. 

“The Montreal Protocol provides concrete proof that global cooperation can heal the planet. It is the world’s most successful international environmental treaty. 

“The mark of its success is that the hole in ozone layer is expected to be completely healed by mid-century. 

“And it also helps the climate. Without the Montreal Protocol, the world would have released the equivalent of about 10 additional years of carbon dioxide emissions by the end of the century, and we might have faced an additional 0.4 degrees Celsius of warming. 

“Australia’s important work to heal the ozone layer is also helping us meet the Government’s new emissions target of a 43 per cent reduction by 2030 and our commitments under the Paris Agreement.” 

Facts about the Montreal Protocol and Ozone Gas Control

  • The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is the landmark multilateral environmental agreement that regulates the production and consumption of nearly 100 man-made chemicals referred to as ozone depleting substances 
  • Adopted on 16 September 1987, the Protocol is to date the only UN treaty ever that has been ratified by every UN member state. 
  • The Protocol was ratified by the Hawke Government in 1989. The Hawke Government played a leading role in negotiating the Protocol and lobbying other countries to sign on and then ratify. 
  • The Montreal Protocol phases down the consumption and production of the different Ozone Depleting Substances in stages, with different timetables for developed and developing countries.
  • With the full and sustained implementation of the Montreal Protocol, the ozone layer is projected to recover by the middle of this century. 
  • Without this treaty, ozone depletion would have increased tenfold by 2050 compared to current levels, and resulted in millions of additional cases of melanoma, other cancers and eye cataracts. It has been estimated, for example, that the Montreal Protocol is saving an estimated two million people each year by 2030 from skin cancer.
  • To date, the Parties to the Protocol have phased out 98% of Ozone Depleting Substances globally compared to 1990 levels. Because most of these substances are potent greenhouse gases, the Montreal Protocol is also contributing significantly to the protection of the global climate system.