With the 30th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer opening in Ecuador on Monday, an environmental group urged it to act fast to curb ozone-depleting gas trichlorofluoromethane, or CFC-11.
It cautioned not to treat the issue of its illegal trade as an isolated enforcement issue limited to one country. The gas not only destroys ozone layer but also contributes to global warming. In May, scientists revealed that atmospheric levels of CFC-11, banned globally since 2010, were significantly higher than expected, indicating new illegal production and use of CFC-11 occurring in East Asia.
A new Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) update, “Tip of the Iceberg: Implications of Illegal CFC Production and Use”, provides compelling evidence potentially linking elevated levels of another ODS, carbon tetrachloride, to the illegal production of CFC-11, and suggests that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
This report also released new independent laboratory test results that clearly confirm the use of CFC-11 in three enterprises in China previously identified by EIA, reinforcing the credibility of their statements that CFC-11 was the predominant blowing agent used at these facilities. The scale and impact of the illegal trade demonstrates that the Montreal Protocol’s current compliance and enforcement regime is not fit-for-purpose and requires modernisation, said EIA.
This is particularly urgent considering the entry into force of the Kigali Amendment in 2019, which will present new challenges to all parties.
Lessons must be learned and swiftly applied to ensure that all parties are able to comply with the critical obligations under the Protocol and maximise global efforts to combat global warming and ensure the recovery of the ozone layer.
Following seven years of negotiations, the 197 Montreal Protocol parties reached a compromise in October 2016, under which developed countries will start phasing down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 2019, while the developing countries, including India, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, will phase them out at a baseline of 2024-2026 and a freeze date of 2028.
The baseline year determines the level at which the HFC consumption in countries are capped.
The heat-trapping organic HFC will be replaced with climate-friendly alternatives.
The EIA’s update includes independent laboratory tests of polyurethane (PU) foam samples — provided by Chinese enterprises previously investigated by EIA — that confirm the presence of CFC-11 as a blowing agent.
“The new lab test results corroborate statements made by these companies to EIA sources about using and trading in CFC-11 blowing agents,” EIA US Climate Campaign Lead Avipsa Mahapatra said.
“While EIA commends China for taking and publicising immediate and widespread enforcement actions, the scale and impact of this illegal trade shows that it is not an isolated enforcement issue in one region but an opportunity for Montreal Protocol to review its current compliance and enforcement regime.
“The recent IPCC report proves that there has never been a greater need to make all possible reductions to carbon emissions in the fight against climate change; the steps the Protocol takes now will be a true test of whether it merits its reputation as the most successful environmental treaty ever.”
EIA has urged the parties to the Montreal Protocol to address a number of remaining unanswered questions, in particular the absence of comprehensive data regarding the size of current banks of CFC-11 in PU foam and other products or equipment.>