Phase-out Schedule For Major Ozone Depleting Substance Announced

  • Simon Upton

The Minister for the Environment, Simon Upton, announced today that the Government has agreed to a phase-out schedule for methyl bromide. Methyl bromide is the only ozone depleting substance that does not have a phase-out schedule in New Zealand.

Methyl bromide is commonly used to fumigate soils prior to planting for high value cash crops such as strawberries. It is among the most significant ozone depleting substances known. Compared to the once common CFCs, which can last hundreds of years in the atmosphere, methyl bromide has a short atmospheric lifetime of around 18 months. Reducing its emission is one of the few actions we can take which will have an immediate positive effect on the ozone layer.

In 1994 the Montreal Protocol's Scientific Assessment Panel concluded that phasing out the release of methyl bromide was the single most important action that could be taken to protect the ozone layer over the next 50 years.

Methyl bromide has been controlled by the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (the international agreement to phase out ozone depleting substances) since 1992. As required by the Protocol, the import of methyl bromide into New Zealand has been controlled since 1995.

Mr Upton said that it is only the soil fumigation uses that would be phased-out. Methyl bromide is also used to fumigate products being imported and exported to control quarantine pests. As agreed internationally, the amounts of methyl bromide used for quarantine and pre-shipment applications (QPS) would continue to be exempted from controls. Mr Upton said that the risks to the environmental from introducing unwanted pests outweighed those from the relatively small amounts of methyl bromide used for QPS purposes globally.

The reductions required in New Zealand under the new phase-out schedule are in advance of those required under the Montreal Protocol, which was revised in September this year. Both the new regulations and the new international phase-out schedule require a phase-out by 2005, "but the interim reductions agreed to for New Zealand are consistently faster than our international obligations" he said.