Image showing the ozone layer above Antarctica (NASA)

Loopholes & ODS illegal trade threaten ozone layer recovery

EIA’s latest briefing New Trends in ODS Smuggling highlights the growing threat of illegal trade in ozone depleting substances (ODS).

Far from going away, the threat of black market ODS looms greater than ever and this briefing brings together analysis of trade and emissions data, recent reported seizures and a look at the global refrigerant and feedstock market to highlight some key areas of concern which need to be addressed by the Montreal Protocol.

Trade data analysis highlights significant discrepancies between China’s reported hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22 (HCFC-22) exports to various countries and their reported HCFC-22 imports from China.

Senior Climate Campaigner Fionnuala Walravens said: “While there are several possible explanations for this, EIA is concerned that HCFC-22 exports from China are being mis-declared as other non-ODS alternatives upon import.”

Evidence from recent ODS seizures supports this. ODS are often declared as HFC-134a, a non-ozone destroying refrigerant and therefore not currently under the control of the Montreal Protocol.

“Environmental protection departments and customs should be monitoring trade in HFCs very closely and be aware of the increasing evidence that ODS are often mis-declared as HFCs,” she added.

Another area of concern raised by EIA is the potentially huge illegal trade in ODS shipped in large tanks, such as ISO tanks. EIA research suggests that despite more than half of all global refrigerant shipments being made in large tanks, verification of the contents using refrigerant identifiers is woefully inadequate.

“There appears to be a lack of understanding as to how the contents of large tanks can be verified and as a result those checks are not happening,” said Walravens.

The report also draws attention to alarmingly high atmospheric concentrations of carbon tetrachloride (CTC), a highly toxic ODS whose use for emissive purposes was banned in 2010. Ongoing use as a feedstock agent is still permitted by the Montreal Protocol, but scientific reports using atmospheric data found that observed emissions are 40 times greater than would be expected from reported feedstock use.

EIA has found large amounts of CTC openly on sale for emissive uses, suggesting that current CTC feedstock controls are inadequate. The report calls on Parties to the Montreal Protocol to take steps to monitor and control CTC use or ban it totally.

EIA campaigners will be attending the Montreal Protocol meeting in Paris from November 17-21.