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Flagrant use of R11 shows refrigerant enforcement 'not fit for purpose'

Environmental Investigation Agency urges decisive action and calls for global ban on disposable cylinders as it publishes new report

The Environmental Investigation Agency has published a new report setting out the scale of illegal production of the CFC R11 in China.

Tip of the Iceberg: Implications of Illegal CFC Production and Use includes independent laboratory tests of polyurethane (PU) foam samples, provided by Chinese firms previously investigated by EIA, that confirm the presence of R11 as a blowing agent.

The group has called for a global ban on disposable refrigerant cylinders - which have been reported for sale, despite being outlawed in the EU for over a decade - and recommended that the Montreal Protocol sets up a task force to examine current and future banks of CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs.

Clare Perry, EIA UK Climate Campaigns Leader, said: “The scale and impact of this illegal trade shows how the Montreal Protocol’s current compliance and enforcement regime is not fit for purpose. With the Kigali Amendment coming into effect in 2019 and bringing with it additional challenges for enforcement, the need for decisive action is particularly urgent. There has never been a greater need to make all possible reductions to greenhouse gas emissions in the fight against climate change; the steps the Protocol takes now will either make or break its reputation as the most successful environmental treaty ever.”

EIA is urging Parties to the Montreal Protocol, meeting in Quito, Ecuador to address a number of remaining unanswered questions, in particular the absence of comprehensive data regarding the size of current banks of R11 in foams and other products or equipment.

Avipsa Mahapatra, EIA US Climate Campaign Lead, said: “One of the companies claimed to be the largest supplier of PU foam polyols in the region and used CFC11 in 90-95 per cent of their production. EIA commends China for taking and publicising immediate and widespread enforcement actions. Still, it is critical that all Parties not treat illegal CFC11 trade as an isolated enforcement issue, but rather work together to holistically address the drivers of this environmental crime. There is a high likelihood that CFC-11 has already been exported in fully-formulated polyols to other countries. It’s important to carry out targeted testing of foam products and raw materials to investigate the potential export of or import of CFC11 in these products.”

In addition, a number of large seizures of R12, another CFC, have occurred in several countries, the Agency added. Europe is already reporting significant illegal and non-compliant HFC imports.

EIA said it advocates urgent measures, including a global ban on disposable cylinders and the reporting of CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs contained in fully formulated polyols. 

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