Montreal Protocol takes steps to crack down on illegal ozone-killer CFCs

The 30th Meeting of the Parties (MoP30) to the Montreal Protocol closed in Quito, Ecuador, on Friday with a decision on immediate next steps to understand and address CFC-11 emissions. We commend the sense of urgency and commitment expressed by the Parties in taking immediate action to respond to the unexpected emissions of CFC-11.

CFCs in China

The issue of alarmingly high unexplained CFC-11 emissions was brought to light initially by scientists in a letter to Nature. Our subsequent investigations identified illegal production and use of CFC-11 in China for the polyurethane (PU) foam insulation sector as the likely root cause.

Prior to the meeting, we released a new report, Tip of the Iceberg: Implications of Illegal CFC Production and Use, examining the implications of the illegal CFC use, including the creation of new bank of CFC-11 in foams, which we estimate may have potentially already reached nearly 4Gt CO2 equivalent.

Montreal Protocol Parties have now adopted a decision that requests information to be provided for the next meeting on atmospheric CFC-11 levels, potential sources of emissions of CFC-11 along with an analysis of current monitoring, reporting and verification under the Protocol. The decision also calls on Parties to take measures to ensure the phase-out of CFC-11 is sustained in their countries and to share information relating to any illegal CFC-11 production or use. During the discussion, China shared information on a nation-wide enforcement effort that has resulted in the discovery of two CFC-11 illegal production sites.

Clare Perry, EIA UK Climate Campaigns Leader, said, “China is to be commended for taking immediate action to uncover and address illegal CFC-11 production and use and the Parties to the Montreal Protocol have demonstrated their united desire to address this environmental crisis but we still face huge challenges to fix this problem. This is a turning point for the Montreal Protocol – nothing less than a comprehensive overhaul of its compliance and enforcement regime will ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

“The unprecedented enforcement actions reported by China and the unanimous support for tasking Montreal Protocol institutions to get to the bottom of this issue within months of the scientific alarm bells is an example of why the Montreal Protocol is often hailed as the most successful environmental treaty,” said Avipsa Mahapatra, EIA US Climate Campaign Lead. “However, it is critical to invest in systemic changes to aid continued compliance and also address the related issue of refrigerant banks, which could avoid up to 97 billion tonnes of carbon emissions equivalent globally between 2020 and 2050.”

Parties to the Montreal Protocol also agreed provisions for reporting of HFCs under the Kigali Amendment, which will come into force in January 2019, and adopted a decision on energy efficiency which directs the Protocol’s financial mechanism to consider additional funding for low volume consuming countries and mobilise additional resources for energy efficiency through collaboration with other financial institutions.