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EIA welcomes Chinese response to CFC11 investigation

Campaign group hopes responses to recent findings on illegal production of ozone depleting substance in China will spur global rethink on policing Montreal Protocol

Assurances from Chinese authorities to crack down on the illegal production and use of the ozone depleting substance CFC11 have been cautiously welcomed by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) campaign group.

However, the organisation said that greater detail was now needed on the scale of work undertaken in the country to ensure businesses were not flouting international environmental initiatives such as the Montreal Protocol. Calls have also been made by the agency for a broader global rethink on ensuring compliance with efforts to tackle use of ozone depleting substances through treaties such as the Montreal Protocol.

An open letter from the Chinese embassy in the UK earlier this month said investigations were ongoing into findings by the EIA over concerns about the level of abuse of the country’s Montreal Protocol obligations as a result of polyurethane foam producers using CFC11.

A joint inspection of 19 polyurethane foam producers by central and local government bodies in the country found no trace of the use of sale of CFC11 in 12 of the enterprises investigated, according to a representative from the embassy.

The same source said that enforcement action has so far been taken against one company that was found to have CFC11 in composite polyether materials, while six other groups were still under investigation.

Next steps

An EIA spokesperson said the campaign group now hoped for more detail from authorities in the country around the penalties applied to organisations using or producing the substance and the status of six other group being investigated.

The spokesperson added, “We would like to see further action to investigate the potential export of CFC-11 containing polyols to other parties to the Montreal Protocol.

“We would also like to see a comprehensive analysis of the drivers of the illegal CFC use, so that action can be taken to address the primarily economic incentives behind the trade. In this respect we welcome the announcement of the China Plastics Processing Industry Association (CPPIA) calling for their members to undertake a number of measures aimed at stopping the use of CFC-11 as a blowing agent.”

The EIA said that the conclusions of its findings had been taken extremely seriously during a recent Montreal Protocol Open-Ended Working Group session held in Vienna. The session looked at current implementation and compliance challenges concerning the treaty.

The organisation’s spokesperson said that a meeting of protocol signatories scheduled for November would discuss the CFC11 issue further. New plans to tackle use and production of the ozone depleting substance are also anticipated to be put in place.

They added, “In a general sense, the illegal ODS trade has always been the Achilles heel of the protocol and we hope that this discovery will ultimately lead to a much more comprehensive approach to enforcement and compliance with of all the Montreal Protocol’s obligations.”

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