Policy paper

2010 to 2015 government policy: environmental quality

Updated 8 May 2015

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/protecting-and-enhancing-our-urban-and-natural-environment-to-improve-public-health-and-wellbeing Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.


Air pollution, noise from traffic or neighbours, or litter and mess on the streets can affect people’s quality of life. For example, things like litter and graffiti, left unchecked, can build up and lead to further anti-social behaviour and more serious crime.

The annual cost of road traffic noise in England has been estimated at £7 billion to £10 billion. There is increasing evidence of direct links between road traffic noise and various types of illness, like heart attacks and strokes.

Air pollution, for example from road transport, harms our health and wellbeing. It is estimated to have an effect equivalent to 29,000 deaths each year and is expected to reduce the life expectancy of everyone in the UK by 6 months on average, at a cost of around £16 billion per year. Air pollution also damages biodiversity, reduces crop yields and contributes to climate change.

The chemicals used in clothing, our homes and our food need to be regulated, as do industrial emissions, or they too have the potential to harm people and the environment.


Improving air quality

We’re working with local and national government, as well as internationally, to improve air quality by controlling:

  • emissions of harmful pollutants
  • concentrations of harmful pollutants in the environment

International and European standards of air quality

To meet our international and European obligations on standards of air quality, we’re:

Like most other member states, the UK is facing difficulties in meeting the EU air quality standards for concentrations of nitrogen dioxide alongside some of our busiest roads. Our air quality plans set out all the measures we’re taking to achieve the air quality standards in the shortest time possible

National strategy on air quality

We published the national air quality strategy in 2007 in 2 volumes: volume 1 contains the strategy, and volume 2 provides information about the evidence the strategy was based on. This strategy set out our national objectives for improving air quality, and how we would achieve them.

We followed this with ‘Air pollution: action in a changing climate’, which explained the benefits of combining work on climate change and air quality.

We’re working on several fronts to improve air quality, including by reducing emissions from transport, industry and energy generation.

We publish daily forecasts of air pollution and health advice so that those with health conditions such as heart or lung problems or asthma can protect their health.

The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants advises government on the health effects of air pollution. The Department of Health has published an indicator for air pollution as part of its Public Health Outcomes Framework.

We have a programme of air quality science and evidence. The programme concentrates on meeting our legal obligations for monitoring and assessment and air quality plans. We also support scientific research into air quality.

Local air quality

Local authorities are responsible for reviewing and assessing air quality, to check they meet national air quality objectives. If they are falling short, they must declare an Air Quality Management Area and produce an action plan showing what they are going to do to meet standards.

We’re supporting local authorities by providing advice and guidance, and through the Air Quality Grants programme.

We’re reviewing local air quality management, to:

  • make sure work is concentrated on EU obligations
  • reduce reporting burdens for local authorities
  • encourage organisations to share good practice

We consulted on the review in July 2013.

The Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act aims to reduce pollution from smoke, grit and dust. It gives local authorities powers to designate Smoke Control Areas, where it’s an offence to emit smoke from a chimney unless using an approved fireplace or fuel.

As part of our commitments under the Red Tape Challenge, we’re:

  • reviewing the Clean Air Act
  • looking at ways to simplify the process for approving fireplaces and fuels for use in Smoke Control Areas

Ozone-depleting substances and F-gases

Ozone-depleting substances (ODS) are gases which damage the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere.

Fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) are a group of chemicals containing fluorine. F-gases are powerful greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.

We’re using international agreements and European and UK regulations to control the use of ODS and F-gases.

Noise and nuisance

Noise and other nuisances have a big impact on our quality of life, our health and the economy. All sorts of factors affect the noise we experience. These can include things like planning decisions about where we put new roads, railways and power stations, licensing for entertainment, or the quality of sound insulation in houses.

We set the policy and legislation to enable local authorities and others to manage noise and nuisance in the local environment, including:

  • ‘environmental noise’, which is noise mainly from transport sources, like road, rail and aviation
  • other noise and nuisances, like neighbour and neighbourhood noise, odours, smoke and artificial light

Our work on noise is set out in more detail in the noise policy statement for England (2010). We work to make sure this statement is reflected in the work of all government departments.

Local environment quality

‘Local environment quality’ covers things like litter, graffiti, abandoned vehicles and fly-posting. These have an effect on quality of life and, if left unchecked, can lead to more serious crime.

Local authorities are responsible for maintaining and improving local environments. We’ve provided guidance on their legal powers and duties.

We also research and advise on the effect of local environmental quality on issues like economic growth and people’s wellbeing.

We give a grant to Keep Britain Tidy to work to reduce litter and improve local environmental quality and management.


We use chemicals in all aspects of our lives - they’re in our clothes, food and homes. We need to make sure that the chemicals we use don’t harm human health or the environment, while getting the most from the benefits they offer. To do this, we:

Industrial emissions

To reduce the risk of harm to the environment and human health, we make and maintain regulations to control industrial emissions. These are largely driven by our obligations under EU legislation, which we’ve negotiated.

These include the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 - the main laws for regulating industrial emissions.

We maintain the UK Pollutant Release and Transfer Register to show what industrial emissions there are, and so that changes can be seen.


The natural environment white paper (2011) sets out our vision for the natural environment over the next 50 years, including for air quality and noise and nuisance.

The national planning policy framework (2012) explains the social and environmental roles the planning system must play, including helping to minimise pollution and improve biodiversity.

The new public health outcomes framework published by the Department of Health in 2012, includes air quality and noise among the main determinants of public health.

Appendix 1: air quality evidence

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Science and research

Defra uses a programme of air quality science and research to help develop and implement policies to improve air quality.

The rationale for this work is set out in the ‘Atmosphere and local environment evidence plan’.

Monitoring air quality

Monitoring tells us the concentration of pollutants in the environment. See the UK-AIR website for information about:

  • air quality monitoring networks
  • current air pollution levels
  • forecasts of air pollution
  • health advice
  • monitoring data
  • main research publications

The National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI):

  • compiles estimates of emissions to the air from a wide range of pollution such as road transport and industrial plants
  • provides information on sources of air pollution
  • provides information on past and future trends in emissions
  • is an important input for modelling of pollution concentrations

Defra carries out air quality modelling to:

  • provide information on concentrations of pollutants
  • predict concentrations under different situations, for example as a result of possible new policies
  • forecast air quality

Defra also has a number of research projects investigating the effects of air pollution on vegetation and ecosystems.

The Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) provides independent scientific advice on air quality.

Economics and valuing air quality impacts

It is estimated that particulate air pollution reduces average life expectancy in the UK by around 6 months, worth £16 billion per year. Government should reflect air quality impacts in decision-making wherever possible, in line with HM Treasury’s Green Book guidance.

Defra has published guidance on best practice appraisal approaches for valuing air quality impacts, supported by the Interdepartmental Group on Costs and Benefits (IGCB).


See statistics on air quality in the UK.

Appendix 2: reviewing the Clean Air Act

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The Clean Air Act was introduced in 1956 in response to the smogs of the 1950s which caused thousands of deaths.

As part of our commitments under the Red Tape Challenge, we’re reviewing the Clean Air Act. We aim to:

  • help local authorities meet air quality challenges
  • reduce burdens for businesses

We published an initial scoping paper in March 2012. We commissioned a report to assess the impacts of changes to the Clean Air Act in July 2012 and held a stakeholder event in February 2013. We will:

  • start a formal consultation in summer 2013
  • follow up with a second consultation on detailed proposals in 2014

About the Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act 1993 has its origins in Acts of 1956 and 1968. In particular, it:

  • prohibits emissions of smoke within smoke control areas, unless using an exempted appliance or an authorised fuel
  • prohibits emissions of dark smoke from any chimney, or from industrial or trade premises, subject to certain exemptions
  • requires approval of many commercial furnaces to ensure they don’t emit too much smoke, grit and dust
  • requires approval of many furnace chimneys to ensure they are high enough to disperse any residual emissions
  • prohibits cable burning except under an environmental permit

Simplifying and speeding up the procedures for exempting appliances and authorising fuels

Under the Red Tape Challenge, we’re also looking at ways to simplify the process for approving fireplaces and fuels for use in Smoke Control Areas.

We plan to revise the procedures for getting approval for exempt appliances and authorised fuels. We aim to:

  • reduce the burdens on business
  • speed up the approval process

Until any changes are made the existing procedures and legislation apply. We will not make any changes without consultation.

Appendix 3: maintaining and improving local environmental quality

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Local environmental quality covers issues like:

  • litter
  • graffiti
  • fly-posting
  • abandoned vehicles
  • dog fouling

All these things harm our shared spaces, and we’ve put laws in place to help local authorities stop that happening.

It’s up to local authorities how they implement and enforce these laws.

Local environmental quality legislation

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, it is a crime to drop litter anywhere on land or in water. It defines litter as ‘anything that is dropped, thrown, left or deposited that causes defacement, in a public place’. It includes litter related to smoking, food, drink, drugs, carrier bags, chewing gum and faeces.

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 gives local authorities powers to deal with littering and other local environment quality issues, including graffiti, noise, abandoned vehicles and shopping trolleys, and control of dogs.

We’ve produced local environmental quality guidance which sets out what we expect local authorities to do, and what the legislation means.

Who we’re working with

Keep Britain Tidy

We work with independent charity Keep Britain Tidy to develop advice, research, support and training to practitioners of local environmental quality.

Keep Britain Tidy also:

The Chewing Gum Action Group (CGAG)

CGAG works with industry and local authorities to reduce the amount of gum litter on the streets of the UK.

Appendix 4: regulating industrial emissions - the environmental permitting system

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 (the EP regulations) provide industry, regulators and others with a single extended permitting and compliance system, called the Environmental Permitting System.

They have produced a single regulatory framework by streamlining and integrating:

  • waste management licensing
  • pollution prevention and control
  • water discharge consenting
  • groundwater authorisations
  • radioactive substances regulation

The following directives were fully or partially transposed through the EP regulations:

Benefits of the environmental permitting system

The Environmental Permitting System simplifies permit applications, amendments and variations for industrial emissions, for both industry and regulator. It allows regulators to concentrate resources on medium and high-risk operations whilst continuing to protect the environment and human health.

This is part of our wider work to reduce the impact of regulation on business.

Local authorities

Local authorities are responsible for regulating about 19,000 industrial facilities, mostly to control air emissions, but in limited cases to enforce integrated pollution prevention and control.

They also have limited responsibilities in relation to waste exemptions. See environmental permitting guidance relevant to the local authority pollution control regime, in particular the ‘Local authority pollution control’ general guidance manual.

Legislation and regulations

Relevant legislation and regulations include:

Appendix 5: international, European and national standards for air quality

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The UK is compliant with its 2010 national emission ceilings for air pollutants. We report national emission totals each year for the main pollutants to the European Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution. The UNECE Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution has agreed a number of protocols including the Gothenburg Protocol (amended in May 2012).

The UNECE Gothenburg Protocol now sets national emission reduction targets, including for fine particulate matter, to be achieved by 2020.

The EU ambient air quality directives set limits and targets for concentrations of various pollutants in outdoor air for the protection of health and ecosystems. It includes controls over fine particulate matter.

The UK meets European air quality standards for nearly all pollutants. The main challenge is in meeting nitrogen dioxide limits alongside roads in cities and towns. We report on compliance each year, as we do for emissions.

The EC is reviewing air quality policy. The review will be finished in autumn 2013.

The EU Directives include:

National legislation and standards on air quality

Air quality is a devolved matter, though the UK government leads on international and European legislation. Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are responsible for their own air quality policy and legislation.

Part IV of The Environment Act 1995 sets provisions for protecting air quality in the UK and for local air quality management.

The Air Quality (Standards) Regulations 2010 transpose into English law the requirements of Directives 2008/50/EC and 2004/107/EC on ambient air quality. Equivalent regulations have been made by the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Air Quality (England) Regulations 2000 set national objectives for local authorities in England.

The National Emission Ceilings Regulations 2002 transpose into UK legislation the requirements of the National Emission Ceilings Directive (2001/81/EC).

The Environment Agency regulates the release of pollutants into the atmosphere from large and complex industrial processes. They also regulate emissions from some large-scale food processing factories and pig and poultry rearing activities.

The Environment Agency works with local authorities, the Highways Agency and others to manage the government’s Air Quality Strategy in England and Wales. The strategy sets air pollution standards to protect people’s health and the environment.

Appendix 6: Persistent Organic Pollutants

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are a group of chemicals which:

  • persist in the environment
  • can build up in in food and human tissues
  • are toxic

These chemicals also have the potential to be transported long distances and deposited far away from their place of release.

The Environment Agency enforces the restrictions and bans of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in England.

The Stockholm Convention on POPs

The Stockholm Convention lists 22 POP chemicals. The 22 POPs fall into 3 broad categories:

  • pesticides (aldrin, chlordane, dieldrin, endrin, hexachlorobenzene (alpha, beta and gamma (lindane) HCB), heptachlor, mirex, toxaphene, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), chlordecone and endosulfan)
  • industrial chemicals (polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, hexabromobiohenyl, pentachlorobenzene (PeCB), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (tetra, penta, hexa and hepta) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride (PFOS-F)
  • unintentionally produced by-products of combustion and some industrial and non industrial processes (dioxins, furans, HCB, PCBs and PeCB)

How we control POPs

The 22 pesticides and industrial chemicals listed in the Stockholm Convention have been banned in the UK. Some uses of PFOS are allowed. Therefore we have no further obligation to control them other than if they enter the waste stream.


The 2 remaining POPs (known collectively as dioxins) have never been produced intentionally but may be formed as a by-product during combustion or some industrial processes. Emissions from industrial processes are controlled through relevant legislation.

Monitoring POPs in air

We monitor POPs in the air through the Toxic Organic Micropollutants (TOMPs) Network.

Appendix 7: EU and international laws and agreements on chemicals

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

EU legislation and policy

European chemicals legislation is set out in the EU REACH (registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals) Regulation. The Health and Safety Executive publishes information about REACH, including what organisations must do to meet its requirements.

REACH provides a single regulatory framework for the control of chemicals, replacing the previous patchwork of controls. It ensures that information on the properties of chemicals is transmitted down the supply chain, so they can be safely handled.

The Environment Agency is one of the enforcement authorities in England for chemical restrictions and bans under REACH.

Derogation for Asbestos

The REACH Enforcement (Amendment) Regulations 2013 (Statutory Instrument 2013 No.2919) is important for all those who may hold, trade (“place on the market”) or loan items that contain asbestos. Given that there is a ban on new asbestos products, the items will be second-hand or historic. The sectors most likely to be affected are:

  • operators of older railway rolling stock, including heritage railways
  • suppliers of acetylene gas in cylinders
  • museums and other heritage organisations
  • owners or operators of historic road vehicles

See the Statutory Instrument 2013 No.2919 for more information.

Banning exports of metallic mercury

EU Regulation No. 1102/2008:

  • places obligations on certain mercury producing companies to provide information, like the amount produced
  • bans mercury exports from the EC
  • requires the safe storage of waste mercury

The Mercury Export and Data (Enforcement) Regulations 2010 put into place provisions for UK enforcement and management of obligations under Regulation (EC) No 1102/2008.

See our Mercury Export and Data (Enforcement) Regulations 2010: guidance notes for more information about this.

In December 2012 we issued a consultation on transposition of the directive setting criteria for storage of metallic mercury waste. The consultation closed in January 2013 and we published a summary of responses in April 2013.

International agreements

UN Conventions

The United Nations promotes global co-operation on a wide range of issues, including the environment. The UK is involved in several UN agreements on the control of chemicals including:

See the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) for more information.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)

The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is a sub-organisation of the UN. It is responsible for conventions that apply specifically to Europe. These include:

  • the Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution, which controls the release of persistent organic pollutants (POPS) - substances capable, once airborne, of being transmitted worldwide
  • the ÅARHUS convention, which aims to involve the general public in environmental policy and make governments more transparent, accountable and responsive
  • the OSPAR Convention, which protects the maritime area by placing controls on the use of hazardous substances where there is a risk to the northeast Atlantic

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

The OECD has become a forum for the international exchange of data on chemicals, including information on testing and exposure. It enables mutual acceptance of data between member countries to make the best use of information available. OECD test guidelines programme is recognised worldwide. It works particularly on the replacement and reduction of animals used in tests.

Chemicals assessment in OECD is mainly carried out through their high production volume (HPV) hazard assessment programme. This programme takes ICCA chemical assessments to achieve international consensus, currently completing around 100 assessments per year. Details are published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA)

The International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) Is a body of leading trade associations representing chemical manufacturers worldwide. It has developed an initiative on HPV (high production volume) chemicals under which manufacturers/importers of HPV chemicals volunteer to complete hazard assessments on such chemicals.

More information may be found on the ICCA website.

Appendix 8: managing noise and other nuisances in the local environment

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

We experience noise every day from different sources. However, we also need and enjoy doing the activities that cause noise: travelling to and from work, going on holiday, doing building work or DIY, going to concerts, listening to music and so on.

But with a growing population, probably living closer together and travelling more, there will be more noise affecting our day-to-day lives. We need to allow for economic growth and the needs of society while managing the effects of noise.

Our noise policy statement aims to:

  • avoid significant adverse impacts on health and quality of life
  • mitigate and minimise adverse impacts on health and quality of life
  • where possible, contribute to the improvement of health and quality of life

This policy should be followed by anyone making a decision that could affect the noise we experience, so that noise issues:

  • are considered early on in the decision-making process
  • are not considered in isolation

Neighbourhood noise and nuisance

Neighbour and neighbourhood noise includes noise from:

  • homes
  • industrial and entertainment premises
  • trade and business premises
  • construction sites
  • the street

Statutory nuisances include:

  • smoke, fumes or gases from any premises
  • dust, steam or smells from business premises
  • accumulations or deposits
  • animals which are badly kept
  • noise or vibration
  • premises in a poor state
  • artificial light
  • insects

The role of local government

Noise and nuisance are often local issues. Local authorities have a number of regulatory powers to help them manage noise and nuisance, including the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The act places a duty on a local authority to take reasonable steps to investigate complaints from people living in its area about alleged statutory nuisance.

If a local authority finds an issue is a nuisance or is harmful to health they must serve an abatement notice on the person responsible. If the person doesn’t comply with the notice they could be prosecuted.

Artificial light pollution and light nuisance

Common causes of complaint about artificial light nuisance include:

  • domestic security lights
  • industrial and commercial security lights
  • sports lighting
  • car parks
  • commercial advertising

The Department for Transport (DfT) is responsible for street lighting policy and lighting on most transport premises. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is responsible for lighting policy related to planning.

We have published information on managing noise and nuisances to help local authorities with their work.

More information can be found from:

Environmental noise

Environmental noise mainly consists of noise from transport sources such as road, rail and aviation.

One of the ways we manage this noise is by implementing the Environmental Noise Directive (END) (Directive 2002/49/EC). It requires us to:

  • create noise maps which show people’s exposure to environmental noise
  • provide information to the public on environmental noise and its effects
  • adopt action plans based on the results of noise mapping
  • preserve environmental noise quality where it is good

Noise mapping

Noise maps can be used to estimate the number of people exposed to various levels of environmental noise. The first round of noise mapping took place in 2007 and the noise maps are available online. The second round of noise mapping took place during 2012 and noise exposure data has been published. The maps will be updated during 2014 to reflect the results of the second round of noise mapping.

Noise action plans

As required by the Environmental Noise Directive, Defra has adopted revised noise action plans for roads (including major roads), railways (including major railways) and agglomerations (large urban areas) following a public consultation in summer 2013.

The action plans are designed to manage environmental noise and its effects. They identify noise hotspots (called ‘Important Areas’), and include a process for identifying and preserving quiet areas within large urban areas.

We have also reported on the progress made on implementing the Environmental Noise Directive in England.

Quiet areas

The natural environment white paper and the END commit us to support the identification and protection of urban quiet areas. These are existing areas of relative quiet that people living in cities can use for relaxation and contemplation.

The National Planning Policy Framework already allows local authorities, through their local plans, to protect green spaces which are prized for various reasons, including tranquility.

Research and evidence

Our work is supported by research and evidence on a wide range of environmental, neighbour, neighbourhood and other nuisance topics. See our database of research reports and the Defra noise research archive pages

Recent and ongoing research projects

Projects from 2014
Projects from 2013

Economic analysis

Noise can have significant effects on society through impacts on health, amenity productivity and ecosystems. For example, the effect of road traffic noise has been valued at £7 to 10 billion per year.

We publish guidance on how to incorporate these impacts into appraisal. This work is supported by the Interdepartmental Group on Costs and Benefits (Noise) (IGCB(N)).

In surveys the public consistently identify local environmental factors as being some of the most important factors in their wellbeing. While responsibility lies with the local authorities, we’ll support their work by providing advice and analysis of these issues where appropriate.

Appendix 9: controlling ozone-depleting substances and fluorinated greenhouse gases

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Ozone-depleting substances

Ozone-depleting substances (ODS) are man-made chemicals that cause damage to the stratospheric ozone layer which protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation. Damage to the ozone layer can result in increases in skin cancer and cataracts, reduced agricultural production and other environmental impacts. Most ODS are also very potent greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change. They include:

  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Halons
  • Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)

How we control ODS

The Montreal Protocol, a UN international treaty agreed in 1987, is designed to reduce the global production and consumption of ODS to protect the earth’s ozone layer.

The Montreal Protocol has agreed schedules to phase out all ODS. Developing countries have been given an extra 10 to 15 years to comply with the control provisions that apply to developed countries.

The protocol established a Multilateral Fund with annual contributions from developed countries, including the UK, to provide developing countries with technical and financial assistance to help them to meet their obligations to phase out ODS.

If compliance with the protocol continues, the ozone layer is projected to recover to its 1980 level by the middle of this century. A 2012 study by the University of Cambridge calculated that by 2030 the protocol will have prevented two million cases of skin cancer a year.

EU and UK regulations

There are European and UK regulations in place to meet our obligations under the Montreal Protocol. CFCs are the most harmful ODS - they were banned in the 1990s.

Halons, used mainly in fire protection systems, are only permitted for certain critical uses, such as extinguishing fires on aircraft. These critical uses are being phased out as and when suitable non-ODS alternatives are found.

HCFCs represent the largest remaining use of ODS. Originally developed to replace CFCs, due to their lower impact on the ozone layer, HCFCs are mainly used in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment. The use of HCFCs in new equipment was banned in 2001. From 1 January 2015, the use of HCFCs to service existing equipment is also prohibited unless a specific exemption is granted by the EU.

The production, import and export of ODS is strictly controlled and subject to licensing by the European Commission. These activites, as well as the destruction of ODS, feedstock uses and process agent use, are subject to annual reporting requirements.

The use of ODS for laboratory and analytical purposes is subject to registration with the EC. ODS may only be used for essential uses where no alternative is available.

ODS legislation

EU legislation:

UK legislation:

The Environmental Protection (Controls on Ozone-Depleting Substances) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/1543), and the Ozone-Depleting Substances (Qualifications) Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/216) have been consolidated and replaced by the Ozone-Depleting Substances Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/168). The regulations provide for minimum qualifications for those working on the recovery, recycling, reclamation or destruction of ODS and enforce the EU Regulation. The regulations apply to England, Wales and Scotland and extend to Northern Ireland only in so far as they relate to import and export under the EU Regulation.

Ozone data

Under the terms of the Montreal Protocol the UK government is committed to monitoring the state of the ozone layer over the UK. Daily UV measurements are taken at 1 site and daily stratospheric ozone measurements at 2 sites in the UK.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) operates a separate network of 7 UV measurement sites which provide UV index graphs on a daily basis. This allows us to understand changes over the UK from day-to-day and year-to-year and to identify any changes that might be detrimental to our health.

We publish Baseline measurements and analysis of UK ozone and UV each year.

Fluorinated greenhouse gases

As ozone depleting substances have been phased out, fluorinated gases (F gases) have been introduced as replacements in many applications. Although they do not damage the ozone layer, they are still powerful greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming if released into the atmosphere. Their effect can be much greater than carbon dioxide. They include:

  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
  • Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6)

HFCs are the most common type of F gases and are mainly used as the refrigerant in air conditioning and commercial refrigeration systems. F gases are also used in other areas such as fire protection systems, solvents, high voltage switchgear, a few types of aerosols and in specialised industrial processes.

How we control F gases

Action to contain, prevent and reduce emissions of F gases is being taken by the EU and the UK as part of our obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.

The EU F Gas regulation

The 2014 regulations strengthen measures to control the supply and use of F gases in order to achieve an 80% reduction in EU emissions by 2035. The new regulation applies from 1 January 2015 and replaces the 2006 EU F Gas regulation. An important element of the new regulation is a phase down in use of HFCs over the next few decades.

F-gas legislation

EU legislation:

UK legislation:

Enforcement, guidance and support for businesses

The Environment Agency helps businesses to comply with both the ODS and fluorinated gases regulations, and also enforces compliance. The Environment Agency has a dedicated helpline for ODS and F-gas related queries: f-gassupport@environment-agency.gov.uk.

There is comprehensive guidance and advice available to businesses on both ODS and F-gases.

The European Commission has guidance on the EU F gas Regulation and the EU ODS Regulation.