China continues to use ozone depleting CFC-11 in violation of Montreal Protocol

Between 40 and 60 per cent of total global CFC-11 emissions originate from Eastern China, reveals study. This is no good news for the ozone layer which is on the road to recovery

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Thursday 23 May 2019
Representative Photo: Getty Images

China has been illegally emitting Trichlorofluoromethane or CFC-11 — the banned ozone-depleting chemical — according to the research published in the journal Nature this week.

CFC-11 was phased out under the 1987 Montreal Protocol. Despite being the signatory to the Montreal Protocol, and agreeing to phase out production of CFC-11 in 2010, China continued to emit the polluting gas.

A study released in May 2018 found that emissions of CFC-11 were on the rise since 2013. In fact, the emissions increased by 25 per cent since 2012. 

Between 2008 and 2012, eastern China emitted an average of about 6,400 metric tonnes of CFC-11 per year. That number increased to about 13,400 metric tonnes per year from 2014 to 2017.

Since 2013, about 7,000 more metric tonnes of the banned CFC-11 has been emitted each year from eastern China. This increase was traced to China’s Shandong and Hebei provinces — which account for at least 40 to 60 per cent of the global increase last year.

“It is vital that we find out which activities and industries are responsible for the new emissions. If the emissions are due to the manufacture and use of products such as foams, it’s possible that we’ve seen only a small part of the total amount of CFC-11 that was recently produced,” said lead author, Matt Rigby, from the University of Bristol.

China has the world’s largest polyurethane foam market, accounting for about 40 per cent of the world’s consumption. According to UK-based non-profit, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the Chinese foam manufacturers have been using CFC-11 illegally to save on the higher cost of alternatives, such as hydrochloro-fluorocarbons like HCFC-141b, which is to be phased out in China by 2026.

The hole in the ozone is on the path to recovery according to the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO's) assessment; and reduction in the atmospheric concentration of CFC-11 has made the second-largest contribution to the decline in the total atmospheric concentration of ozone-depleting chlorine since the 1990s.

But this gas still contributes one-quarter of all chlorine reaching the stratosphere, and a timely recovery of the stratospheric ozone layer depends on a sustained decline in CFC-11 concentrations.

Continued success of the Montreal Protocol in protecting stratospheric ozone depends on continued compliance and China must adhere to it.

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