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R11 study raises tough questions on Montreal Protocol enforcement

Research pinpointing major rises in the emissions of ozone depleting substances to eastern china should lead to wholesale review of Montreal Protocol enforcement, a campaign group warns

Multiple issues concerning the illegal manufacture and use of the ozone depleting CFC R11 in China remain unresolved, despite government claims that it would end the practice.

The warnings have been made by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) campaign group following the publication of a new study in the journal Nature about large scale emissions of R11 in eastern parts of China, such as the provinces of Hebei and Shandong.

The EIA, which launched a high-profile campaign to raise awareness about an illegal supply of R11 in China for use in polyurethane foam, has been campaigning for stricter enforcement of laws regulating the substance in the country. It has also called for a rethink of global efforts to monitor greenhouse gas emissions from a range of sectors such as cooling.

The campaign group expressed particular concern over evidence in the new study of uncertainty about how the product may either be hidden in stockpiles in the country, or have been exported for use in foam products or polyol blends.

EIA UK climate campaigns leader Clare Perry has warned that a greater understanding was now needed of production levels of the product, and where R11 may be in use.

She added, “However, the most critical action for China now is to locate and permanently shut down all R11 production. This will require a significant and sustained intelligence-led enforcement effort from China.”

Avipsa Mahapatra, US climate campaign lead for the EIA, added that the latest findings published in Nature backed the organisation’s own investigations into R11 manufacture in China.

Ms Mahapatra said, “The fact that scientists cannot pinpoint the source of the remaining emissions demonstrates the lack of sufficient monitoring capacity in other parts of the world.”

“This cannot be treated as isolated cases in China and underlines the need to fundamentally revisit the Montreal Protocol’s monitoring and enforcement regime, including expanding approaches to tracking the supply chain of controlled substances.”

The findings that appeared in Nature, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Bristol, concluded that emissions of R11 from eastern mainline China increased by 7,000 tonnes on an annual basis since 2012.

Researchers concluded this was equivalent to 33 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions in the region.

An estimated 40 to 60 per cent of the increase in the global emissions of R11since 2012 can be attributed to this area in China, according to the research.

The findings made use of “high-frequency atmospheric observations” from South Korea and Japan, along with global monitoring data, to better understand and pinpoint where the additional emissions were originating.

The EIA last year praised an open letter from Chinese authorities that committed to investigate and crack down on R11 production. However, the organisation did at the time call for greater detail on the work authorities in the country would take to try and limit the scale and scope of illegal production of ozone depleting substances.

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